01/31/08 — Officials start planning Union Station's future

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Officials start planning Union Station's future

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 31, 2008 2:09 PM

As work continues on the old Union Station in downtown Goldsboro, officials from the city and the state Department of Transportation are all trying to figure out how best to use the revitalized facility once it is fully renovated.

Helping lead those efforts is the Goldsboro-Wayne Transportation Authority, which is preparing to undergo a six- to nine-month study to determine its and the county's future needs. GATEWAY also is the most natural fit for the building, which is expected to become a transit hub for Wayne County and the larger eastern region.

Currently, though, DOT is still working on a stabilization plan for the building.

"That plan ought to be complete by spring, the bids out this summer, and the building stabilized by the end of this year," said Craig Newton, senior project engineer for DOT's rail division.

By then, he continued, local officials need to be pretty close to deciding how they want it used so that renovations can begin.

"We're really looking for the local transit system to be a catalyst for the redevelopment of the station. We are hoping that GATEWAY will come up with a plan on revitalizing the station as some sort of transit hub," Newton said.

But to do that, they first need to plan for Wayne County's future transportation needs, explained Mike Kozak, assistant director for metropolitan transportation for DOT's public transportation division.

"There are a lot of changes that are going to go on in the community and we need to take a look at what the transit system is going to need in the future," he said.

Among those factors that have to be taken into consideration are the needs of a growing population, an aging population, an increasingly Hispanic population, an expanding Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, major employers and the potential for regional cooperation.

And, Kozak said, as GATEWAY goes through that future planning process, it also needs to include Union Station -- particularly taking into account what others in the community might like to see happen with the station and the nearly one city block accompanying it.

"The next phase as this project moves along is to make sure we have a clear understanding of what the community expects (the station) to do for it," he said.

Although there are natural limits because of the size of the building and its likely future uses by GATEWAY and a passenger rail service, there are opportunities to bring in other transportation businesses and to include community meeting spaces or other cultural attractions.

"This can really be a centerpiece for your downtown development," Kozak said. "We really need to have that clear understanding from your community.

"This study is going to be critical."

Now, Stubbs explained, their charge is to create an outline for what should be included in the study, and then begin it within the next few months -- a prospect that has him excited.

"We're going to be busy," he said. "We want to see what our needs are and what the public's needs are. Everybody needs to be involved in this because we are public transportation."