Checking Out a New Train Station That Would Make Many Cities Drool

The ticketing hall and pre-boarding waiting area in Raleigh's new Union Station, which started serving passengers in July.

The ticketing hall and pre-boarding waiting area in Raleigh's new Union Station, which started serving passengers in July. Michael Grass / Route Fifty

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Next up is Raleigh Union Station’s second phase, which just secured $20 million in new funding from the Trump administration.

RALEIGH, N.C. — It wasn’t too long ago that the land adjacent to a railroad junction about a 10-minute walk west of the North Carolina State Capitol was barren, full of weeds and featured a vacant warehouse.

Today, the setting is very different. That warehouse has been repurposed and is the centerpiece of Raleigh’s new 26,000 square foot Union Station complex, which opened in July and anchors the rapidly redeveloping western fringe of the downtown area. It’s a transportation facility that has been described as the city’s new “front door.

This is what the vacant warehouse that now forms the centerpiece of Raleigh’s Union Station looked like in December 2015. (Photo by Michael Grass / RouteFifty.com)

Nearby is The Dillon, a new 18-story 2.5-acre mixed-use building; the Morgan Street Food Hall, a popular destination in Raleigh’s Warehouse District; and offices for Citrix.

The station’s ticketing hall and pre-boarding waiting area is spacious, well designed, full of light and there’s plenty of seating. It’s a big change from Raleigh’s cramped and aging neo-colonial 1950s rail station, which is now demolished.

The ticketing hall and pre-boarding waiting area in Raleigh’s new Union Station (Photo by Michael Grass / Route Fifty)

All that’s needed now: More frequent train service to more destinations.

The site plan for the new station (via North Carolina DOT Rail Division)

As Route Fifty has previously featured, Raleigh’s Union Station was designed with future rail service in mind, including—someday—high-speed rail service connecting to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor via a new track connection offering a more direct route to Richmond, Virginia. Current Amtrak service connecting Raleigh to Richmond, Washington, D.C. and New York City uses a longer route on slower tracks through the eastern North Carolina cities of Rocky Mount, Wilson and Selma, which requires northbound trains from Raleigh to initially travel southeast before turning north.

The new Union Station complex cost $90 million and was funded through a combination of federal, state and local funds, including U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER grant funding during the Obama administration.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced $1.5 billion in discretionary grant funding to 91 projects across the nation, including $20 million for the second phase of Raleigh Union Station. According to the Transportation Department, the project will bring a new bus transfer facility, bus rapid transit platform, pedestrian improvements, wayfinding and traffic signal prioritization.

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(Photo by Michael Grass / Route Fifty)

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle. 

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