Archive for Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Depot dreams

Transferring ownership of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe depot would be a good deal for the railroad and not such a good deal for the city and its taxpayers.

June 24, 2008


There is no doubt that the east Lawrence depot that connects the city to Amtrak rail services needs some work.

It is, however, extremely unlikely that acquiring the building in hopes of improving and perhaps restoring it as a historical structure is a good investment for the city, at least for now.

A dedicated group of local preservationists is scheduled to talk to Lawrence city commissioners tonight about the depot's future. Representatives of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, which owns the depot, have indicated they might consider donating the structure to the city if they were allowed to retain some office space there. Accepting that donation would give the city control over the building, its potential renovation and perhaps a historical designation.

It also would open the door, however, to many costs including the cost to make the building comply with the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act and increased costs for liability insurance coverage. Federal funds might be obtained to help with a renovation, but a local match likely would be required on what is sure to be a costly project.

It's easy to see why BNSF would be willing to give up this building. The transfer would make all of the depot's delayed maintenance issues, not to mention future maintenance costs, someone else's problem.

It's more difficult to see any reason the city would want to take on that responsibility, especially when it is facing so many pressing infrastructure issues of its own.

Proponents see the depot as a potential historical redevelopment project, something that would help anchor an older neighborhood and perhaps feed tourist traffic in Lawrence. Although the BNSF depot is a good example of the architecture of the 1950s, it doesn't even approach the architectural charm of the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence.

It's also hard to imagine the depot serving anything more than a utilitarian role in the community because of its size and location. It isn't big enough to house most businesses, and its location isn't the most desirable.

The bottom line is that there is really no reason for anyone to go to the depot unless they are meeting one of two trains that pass through Lawrence either in the middle of the night or the predawn hours. Unfortunately, that gives railroad officials little incentive to properly maintain the facility.

Perhaps that will change. If gasoline prices continue to rise, rail travel may become a more attractive option. If the effort to renew the Northern Flyer route to Wichita and south to Texas succeeds, it would at least double the reasons for people to visit the depot.

The city should play an active role in encouraging BNSF officials to address deferred maintenance at the depot. However, until there are firm plans either for increased rail service there or some strong alternative use for the depot, the city should steer clear of financial responsibility for the building.


Flap Doodle 9 years, 12 months ago

Marioni, as an act of solidarity, you should refuse to post here any more.

Orwell 9 years, 12 months ago

Does BNSF pay property taxes? Would we lose those if the city bought the depot?

Flap Doodle 9 years, 12 months ago

Nick,don'tconsole yourselfwith vodka.BTW,stillhavingawonderfulinternetlife.

texburgh 9 years, 12 months ago

How about using the depot as a transportation hub? Why can't Greyhound run out of there as well? We need to find ways to encourage alternative transportation - rail and bus included.

shlomoek 9 years, 12 months ago

I didn't even know there were two depots.

Emily Hadley 9 years, 12 months ago

Greyhound stops at the gas station on 6th because it is very (normally) the closest stop to an I-70 entrance that is accessible and quick. It pulls out of the gas station lot and right onto the McDonald Drive turn lane.I would prefer that the Greyhound stopped downtown or near it, as it does in some larger cities, but it stops where it is in order to minimize its stop time along the route. If you have ever ridden a Greyhound you know how much time is lost to pulling into every little Podunk stop along the way. Not everyone passing through wants a tour of North Lawrence.How about some complimentary structure, rather than simply restoring this one to its 1950s glory? It is locked when the trains come through, anyway; I would prefer the area around it to look interesting. The brick lot is cool, but it has no definition and no landscaping to speak of.We could start by maintaining the poor road that still has tracks collapsing under it... Add some boulevard lampposts, some sturdy art, a fringe of native flowering plants around the parking lot and call it a day.

Bladerunner 9 years, 12 months ago

Better yet...Emily..get out YOUR pocketbook!

Flap Doodle 9 years, 12 months ago

girlfriend, it appears that all of your bud's comments have been removed. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Aimee Polson 9 years, 12 months ago

The idea of a transportation hub was visited, but I believe that the size of the building and especially of the parking area is insufficient to accomodate several different types of transportation (buses, cabs, trains, etc.). I remember hearing that there is not enough space for a bus to turn around. I can't remember everything, but I do believe that grant money was obtained several years ago to look into just that and the idea was quickly abandoned.

Doug Fisher 9 years, 12 months ago

the previous depot at this location was much prettier than the current one. if anyone is interested just look up some old pics of the original brick depot. the 51" flood pretty much destroyed it. it's too bad they couldn't save that one instead.

notajayhawk 9 years, 12 months ago

Reality_Check (Anonymous) says: "As rail ridership increases (the trains are fully booked now), the number of people arriving/departing through the depot will increase."Uh - Reality_Check - if the trains are "fully booked now," then how is ridership going to increase?****hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says: "Let's see what happens when BN is notified? The railroad has paint, has laborers."If you know anything about the OK City - Fort Worth train that they're trying to con the state of Kansas into flushing more money away on to extend through Kansas, you'd know that the cities along the route had to pick up the tab to refurbish all those train stations, too.

notajayhawk 9 years, 12 months ago

"Why should other properties around town be considered blighted and not the Santa fe station. Is it because the BN will board it up and bulldoze it as well?"No, it's because the city has virtually no power to tell the railroad what to do with or on its own property. It's good to be a RR (unless your name is Amtrak).

Emily Hadley 9 years, 11 months ago

We would be the city, Lawrence, us, the ones buying and debating restoring and improving the property. Duh.Why make grand plans to spend a bunch of taxpayers' money on a locked building when the area around it, that everyone actually sees, looks like crap? You don't have to spend much to keep the grounds up or add some lighting, for goodness sake, and just keeping it tidy would do more for it than anything or anyone has in the last 40 years.Uh, since when it is unheard of to landscape and light city property?These is no functioning sidewalk, the street is destroyed, it is dark as hell at night, and there is just an unkempt empty lot next to it.hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says: Bladerunner, emily probably gets the fund for her pocket book from the local taxpayers. what say Emily?"As for this and the related comments, you kooks totally lost me. I have no doubt you two fiscally conservatives would let the town go to crap if given the choice not to pay taxes for Parks & Rec, much less street, sidewalk, and public utility maintenance... as long as that broadband still runs to your basement!I, like many others in our wonderful and poor city, prefer to invest a bit of my hard-earned paycheck to make Lawrence a decent place to live and visit, thus inviting more investment and more pocketbooks from outside Lawrence.Crazy, I know.

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