Plans for the city to purchase and preserve the old Santa Fe Depot in east Lawrence now appear to be more dependent than ever on a federal grant.
City officials recently were told that $600,000 in federal stimulus money received by Amtrak won’t be able to be used on any of the $500,000 worth of interior and ADA improvements that have been deemed critical to preserving the 1950s-era structure at Seventh and New Jersey streets.
City commissioners had been hopeful that a significant portion of the $600,000 in stimulus funding would be used to make necessary ADA improvements inside the building, but Amtrak officials report the entire amount will be used to bring the outside train platform up to ADA standards.
That now leaves the project to rely on a $583,000 federal transportation enhancement grant that commissioners applied for last month. If the city doesn’t receive that grant, some commissioners are now questioning whether the city can move forward on taking over ownership of the building from Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
“We will need to seriously consider whether we can afford to own that building without that money,” said Commissioner Mike Dever, who said he is concerned the city would be required to immediately make any ADA improvements to the building. The railroad has received an extension on making the station ADA accessible, but Dever said the city likely would not receive such an extension.
“The bar is much higher for a city facility,” Dever said.
Mayor Rob Chestnut said he also will want to re-examine the ownership issue, if the city fails to win the grant.
“But I want to take things one step at a time,” Chestnut said.
The city is expected to learn this summer whether it has been awarded the grant, which will require about $175,000 in matching funds from the city. Carrie Maynard-Moody, the organizer of a community group working to promote the depot, believes Lawrence stands an excellent chance of winning the grant.
“It is an active station, and it’s a project that really is about transportation,” Maynard-Moody said. “Most stations that are in our position do receive this type of grant.”
In the meantime, city officials are continuing to wait for a proposed ownership transfer agreement from BNSF.