$855,000 in works for Union Station
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 26, 2009 1:46 PM
The Union Station restoration project got a boost today, as Congressman G.K. Butterfield announced that the U.S. House has approved $855,000 to help with the efforts. If approved by the Senate and signed by President Barack Obama, the money will be used either to restore the section of the station that will house GATEWAY, or to construct a separate building on the site for the local transportation provider.
Goldsboro officials learned today that Congressman G.K. Butterfield and a majority of his colleagues in the House approved funding $855,000 to be used for restoration of historic Union Station.
And while the decision still must be passed by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Barack Obama before becoming law, Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. executive director Julie Thompson called making it through the first step of the process exciting.
"We're feeling great," she said. "Zippy, actually."
In fact, the sum, secured through a line-item in the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill relating to funding for buses and bus facilities, came as a surprise to Mrs. Thompson and other officials.
The city had originally requested $1 million to help with the GATEWAY portion of the project -- either restoring the section of Union Station that would house the organization or constructing, for the group, its own facility on the station grounds -- but last year during a visit from then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole's aides, Mrs. Thompson and others were told $500,000 was a more realistic goal.
"So we ended up getting more than we thought we were going to get," she said. "It's great."
If approved, the money would still serve the purpose it was requested for, Mrs. Thompson said.
But the specifics -- whether GATEWAY will be housed inside the historic station or in its own facility on the grounds -- have yet to be determined.
GATEWAY board members discussed the issue, and others, with city and North Carolina Department of Transportation officials earlier this week.
And while no formal decision was made, DOT Rail Division senior project engineer Craig Newton said a separate building for GATEWAY and Greyhound to the right of the station would be ideal.
"I'm really thinking we need the extra building," he said Tuesday. "It's harder to create an Amtrak space and a Greyhound space in the current building."
The discussion will likely continue, as those same officials are expected to meet again in March to look at two spatial models of Union Station -- one with a separate bus building and one without.
But whatever the end result, Butterfield was pleased by the House's allocation of the funding for it.
"This will help transform Goldsboro Union Depot into a major, modern transportation hub," he said in a news release. "(One) that pays tribute to its history."
Mayor Al King announced the sale of the historic depot to NCDOT in August 2007 and said purchase of the site by the state's Historic Station Restoration and Preservation Program would set the stage for the rebirth of long range, intercity passenger rail service through town.
It was a move seven years in the making, as a DOT task force was formed in 2000 to research the feasibility of passenger rail service from Raleigh to Wilmington.
When Mrs. Thompson got wind of the study, she traveled to Raleigh with local historian Charlie Gaylor, and within a few weeks of that trip, local officials formed their own group, hoping a show of commitment from the city's leadership and residents might help the decision swing toward Wayne County.
News of the House's vote comes just two months after renovation at the station paused as workers and city residents gathered to celebrate the completion of the first phase of work that is expected to bring the old railroad center back to life, stabilization of the structure.
The next phase will involve restoration of the interior.
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