How To Design A Transportation Center

July 5, 2011 47 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

While we move forward with a spread out, $180 million intermodal transportation center, Raleigh has decided to reduce their $150 million proposed center to $20 million by consolidating modes into an existing abandoned warehouse building.

A Change of Heart in Raleigh, NC

In an effort to streamline costs and speed up implementation, the City of Raleigh has decided to abandon a transportation center plan that was once as spread out as JTA's proposed Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center.  The result of Raleigh's alternative compact redesign is an immediate cost savings of $130 million.

Raleigh's original sprawling Union Station plan.

Last year, city planners proposed building a new transit hub off West Hargett Street in downtown's warehouse district. Called Union Station, it was designed to serve riders on buses, light rail, local streetcars and interstate trains. It would cost at least $150 million.

The Dillon building - about a block south, at the end of Martin Street in the center of the Boylan Wye, a busy rail junction on the western edge of downtown - could serve the same purpose for much less.

Renovating it would cost $20 million, state transportation officials said Wednesday during a tour of the building with local officials and rail advocates. The city's portion would be 10 percent, with state and federal sources picking up the rest.

"For $2 million, the city would essentially own a $20 million facility," said Will Allen III, chairman of the city's rail task force.

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Like the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, Raleigh's original $150 million intermodal center spread out like a ranch over several city blocks of downtown.  The new plan calls for the site to be confined to the area shown in the image above as a parking deck.  By reusing an existing building and having a more compact design, the cost of the project dropped by $130 million.

A Phased Approach

To speed up implementation, Raleigh is considering a phased approach, starting with a platform for Amtrak.  Electricity would be generated by the installation of solar panels on the existing warehouse's flat roof.

Location of the compact Union Station proposal.

Crews would expand the terminal in phases, starting with a platform for Amtrak and later adding a second platform for high-speed rail, which could require a tunnel or overhead walkway to allow travelers to cross the tracks.

The flat roof could accommodate solar panels to generate electricity for the building, officials said. An upfit would preserve the building's industrial feel - exposed brick, ductwork and windows - and possibly leave space for retailers inside the terminal, Paul said.

The main entrance on Martin Street could get a facelift to add an attractive facade and big windows facing downtown.

Meanwhile, the nearby block formerly envisioned for the new Union Station could become a redevelopment project.

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Raleigh's new intermodal center plan is $130 million cheaper than their original budget-busting, JRTC-like sprawler.

A Lesson For Jacksonville

The $180 million JRTC consumes over 10 blocks of LaVilla, circling the Prime Osborn Convention Center in the process.  If the plan is to relocate the convention center to East Bay Street, why not convert the Prime Osborn into a transportation center and eliminate the need to build anything north of Bay Street?

Raleigh's approach to building an intermodal transportation center in their downtown is one that JTA and Jacksonville would be smart to follow.  With a major push by the Alvin Brown administration to relocate the convention center to East Bay Street, the time is now to seriously consider redesigning the actual Prime Osborn into a transportation hub.  If the Raleigh experience has shown us anything, it's that going compact has the ability to save Jacksonville taxpayers millions of dollars by eliminating the duplication of placing multiple stations on adjacent blocks, along with returning freed up land back to the tax rolls.

Article by Ennis Davis.