05/02/13 — Ray LaHood visits, tours Union Station

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Ray LaHood visits, tours Union Station

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on May 2, 2013 1:46 PM

Ray LaHood, the U.S. secretary of transportation, visited Goldsboro on Tuesday, meeting with city and county officials and touring the current Gateway bus transfer station and Goldsboro Union Station.

LaHood, who came at the request of Congressman G.K. Butterfield, was in town to discuss potential federal funding for the proposed renovations to the train station and the construction of a new bus station next to Union Station.

The city, in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation, has so far spent $3.2 million on Union Station from a combination of federal, state and local sources.

The entire project, including the money already spent, as well as the complete renovation of Union Station, the construction of a Gateway Transfer Facility, the Streetscape project connecting the station with Center Street and improvements to the parking area comes to an estimated $17.2 million.

The city expects to have some city offices and private rental space for businesses in the station.

"We are in the transportation business, but we are also in the job creation business," LaHood said.

The secretary praised the project, saying it would create jobs in the community for construction as well as business within the station.

LaHood said that the Union Station project is a good fit for the types of projects that received funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery discretionary grant program.

TIGER grant money must be matched with local dollars from the areas in which it is being utilized, according to LaHood.

Rail station projects in other cities have been recipients of past TIGER grants, he pointed out.

"This is an opportunity for the people to grow and this is a magnet for economic development," LaHood said.

The application deadline for the fifth round of grants is June 3.

This year, the federal Department of Transportation will have $474 million to appropriate in grants. Rail projects have made up a large portion of the transportation grants, accounting for $1.6 billion of the $3.1 billion available over the past four rounds of TIGER grants.

City Council members agree the existing bus system has outgrown its current transfer station, which is housed in an old fire station at the corner of N. Madison Avenue and E. Beech Street.

"I'm ready for them to get out of here," Councilman Chuck Allen said.

LaHood will be stepping down from his position once a successor to the job is confirmed. Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx was nominated by President Obama last month for the job.