The city plans to move the Amtrak train station on North Tryon Street to a new location uptown in three or four years, a move helped by a $25 million federal grant that U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday.
At first, the uptown station near West Trade Street would have a platform, temporary waiting room and ticketing area.
Eventually, the city hopes to convert that site into Gateway Station, a home to Amtrak, a commuter rail line to Lake Norman, inter-city and transit buses and the streetcar. The station would be distinctive architecturally, and boosters have said it would serve as a Grand Central Station for the city.
Gateway Station – and the temporary station – would be a block from BB&T BallPark.
That project could cost as much as $200 million, and there are several hurdles in addition to money before it can move forward.
In the meantime, the city and the N.C. Department of Transportation said they will take an incremental step by moving the Amtrak station from its current location 2 miles from the heart of uptown.
That project will cost about $53 million.
Much of the money will come from the federal grant that former Charlotte Mayor Foxx celebrated at the Amtrak station. In addition, the Charlotte Area Transit System has $20 million set aside from a previous Gateway Station grant.
That leaves a gap of about $8 million. CATS chief executive John Lewis Jr. said “everything is on the table” in terms of finding the missing money.
“Our goal is to get people on and off trains (in uptown) as soon as possible,” Lewis said.
It’s possible that could come from CATS. The city of Charlotte might also be asked to contribute.
Mayor Dan Clodfelter was asked at the news event whether local taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay for the station. “I don’t know if I can say that for sure,” he said.
The N.C. DOT owns several pieces of land around the Gateway Station site, at Graham, Fourth and West Trade streets. The state hopes a developer will build offices, retail and residential there. That same developer could also build Gateway Station.
The city said today’s Amtrak station is too small and prone to flooding; it’s also a 30-minute walk from uptown.
The temporary project would make a number of improvements to the existing rail line, including more track to allow freight trains to pass.
A proposal this summer, presented to the Charlotte Chamber by the city, said Charlotte could build a 1,200-foot-long platform elevated above West Trade Street. There also would be a 600-foot canopy.
The plan also called for a 10,000-square-foot temporary station building, which presumably would be torn down when Gateway Station is finished. The waiting room at the North Tryon station is 1,200 square feet.
“I see no reason why there (wouldn’t be) a groundbreaking in 18 months,” Foxx said.
A key part of the Gateway Station plan is to house the last stop on a commuter train to Lake Norman, the Red Line.
But that project has two hurdles. The first is that the city doesn’t have the roughly $500 million needed to pay for the Red Line.
The second is that the plan calls for the train to use the freight-rail tracks owned by Norfolk Southern. The freight railroad has so far refused the city’s offer to share its tracks.
Foxx said he has offered to bring the city, state and Norfolk Southern together to find a solution. He also said the federal government could expedite permits needed to build the station.
The city also wants commuter rail and Amtrak passengers to be able to take the streetcar from Gateway into uptown or other destinations.
The streetcar, or Gold Line, currently ends at Time Warner Cable Arena, but President Barack Obama’s budget includes $75 million to extend the streetcar to Johnson C. Smith University and to Sunnyside Avenue in Elizabeth.
That extension could be finished by the end of the decade.
In his speech, Foxx said the South is growing rapidly and that it needs different ways for people to get around.
“You can try to build enough roads – you just can’t do it,” he said. “The South is road dependent. That has to change.”