The city hopes to strike a deal for a low-cost purchase of the former Santa Fe depot in east Lawrence by November, Lawrence leaders said Monday.
Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard said the city would like to own the facility by November in order to apply for a round of transportation enhancement grants that could be used to make upward of $100,000 worth of repairs to the facility.
“I think we would stand a good chance of receiving some funding,” Stoddard said. “The have been a number of depots restored using those funds, and what makes us a little different is that we’re still located on an active Amtrak line.”
Stoddard made the comments at an event allowing U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., to tour the 1950s-era structure at Seventh and New Jersey streets.
Moore said he believes Congress likely will look favorably upon future public transit projects, including passenger rail service.
“We need more fuel-efficient, more energy-efficient forms of transportation,” Moore said. “I think projects like these can make valuable contributions to the future of transportation in the country.”
A representative with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway said the railroad was committed to considering an ownership transfer of the depot to the city.
“We’re working in a cooperative manner on it,” said Skip Kalb Jr., BNSF’s director of strategic development, who grew up in Lawrence just blocks from the depot. “We’re making it a high priority to get something worked out.”
The railroad company has said it wants to keep ownership of the land, but is open to transferring ownership of the building to the city. A local citizens group, Depot Redux, has urged the city to take ownership because it would make it easier for the building to be restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The city has become more interested in taking over the depot after Amtrak — which has two trains per day that use the depot — received $600,000 in federal stimulus money to bring the depot up to ADA standards.
Derrick James, a government affairs officers with Amtrak, said that work should begin in the spring. The work will involve rebuilding the depot’s boarding platform to make it more usable for people in wheelchairs and for the visually impaired.
Members of Depot Redux are hoping a revamped depot will help the city attract more passenger rail service in the future. The Kansas Department of Transportation is conducting a feasibility study to determine the cost to create a new Amtrak line that would run from Kansas City to Oklahoma City. That service would run through Lawrence. A KDOT representative said he hopes the study will be done by the end of the year.
Depot Redux also is hoping the city will be open to other secondary uses for the building. Founder Carey Maynard-Moody said she wants the city to consider using the depot as a main transfer point for the city’s public bus system.
“I would like for the city to revisit whether Lawrence needs a transportation hub, and whether it should be here,” Maynard-Moody said.