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City wins $1.2 million grant to restore Santa Fe depot

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Forget about the city waiting for its ship to come in. Its train finally has arrived.

Lawrence officials have been awarded a federal transportation grant that will pay for 80 percent of the approximate $1.5 million cost to renovate the Santa Fe depot in East Lawrence.

The 1950s-era depot at Seventh and New Jersey streets would receive a major makeover with that level of funding. The building, currently owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, long has needed a new roof, new heating and cooling systems and other mechanical repairs. But with the grant money, improvements to parking and other improvements also are likely. The station already has received $1.5 million in upgrades to its boarding platform from Amtrak to help make the station ADA compliant.

Now city officials will need to restart discussions with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway about purchasing the depot. The railroad previously has expressed interest in selling the station to the city for a nominal amount. There have been conditions — such as the railway not wanting to sell the ground the station is on, and the need for the city to accept any environmental liability that exists on the property — that are likely to require more discussion. But city staff members have said indicated railway officials are still open to negotiation on the purchase terms.

The city also will have to come up with a little more than $300,000 in local money to meet the 20 percent matching requirement of the grant. That probably will be an unexpected expense in the 2014 budget, but it is a one-time expense, and the city previously has made it a priority to find money to take advantage of federal grants. What won’t be a one-time expense will be the city’s costs to maintain, heat and cool the building. Those expenses will have to be built into future budgets.

It also will be interesting to see if the city starts looking for additional uses for the building. Its main use will continue to be as a train depot, particularly for the Southwest Chief Amtrak train that comes through the city twice daily. The city, however, had been seeking other uses for the building, in part to improve the building’s chances of receiving grants. A plan to make the depot the central station for the city’s bus system was considered but ultimately rejected because of space concerns and objections from several neighbors.

Now that the building seems to have a much brighter future, I wouldn't be surprised if other groups start getting more serious about ways that they can use the building during the day. The Amtrak stops are late at night and early in the morning, leaving the station largely unused during normal business hours.

Based on the terms of the grant, the city needs to have a renovation project underway by September 2014. The grant the city received was a Transportation Enhancement grant, which is funded with federal dollars but is awarded by the Kansas Department of Transportation. I’m a bit surprised the TE grant program didn’t become wrapped up in the federal sequestration, but it appears it hasn’t.

The depot project was the largest TE grant project the city applied for in this funding cycle. But there were others, and there is good news on those fronts, as well. City officials have received word they’ve received Transportation Enhancement funding for two other projects:

• A grant of $218,838 to extend the paved Burroughs Creek Rail Trail from 23rd Street to 29th Street. The trail — which runs along the eastern edge of Haskell Indian Nations University — currently exists as a paved gravel path. The funding will allow the route to be paved, similar to the Burroughs Creek Rail Trail that is just north of 23rd Street. In case you are having a hard time picturing the area, it is just below the recently-replaced 23rd Street bridge. That project included a new parking area for people to access the trails. Like the depot grant, the city will need to come up with a 20 percent match in local funds — about $43,000 for this project.

• A grant of $55,000 to restore some old stone monuments at the entrance of the historic Breezedale neighborhood just south of 23rd and Massachusetts streets. The city will need to provide a 20 percent match, or about $11,000.

City commissioners will be asked to formally accept the grants at a future City Commission meeting.

Comments

blindrabbit 1 year, 2 months ago

I ride the SW Chief occasionally from Lawrence to Santa Fe (Lamy) and Los Angeles, love it but! What is the latest on the talk of BNSF not wanting to maintain track for the Amtrak in Western Kansas, Colorado and Raton Pass into New Mexico. If this were to happen, I wonder if Amtrak would route the trains from Kansas City, Wichita, to Oklahoma City, Tucumcari and Albuquerque, thus eliminating the need for Lawrence. Hate to see it happen, but might make sense from a ridership POV.

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justforfun 1 year, 2 months ago

I hear ya! But as an active blogger in sure you realize that our city leaders would never move forward on a project without all the details!! You know like weather or not Amtrack will continue, firm cost estimates on work, proper bid process, etc.... But hey why woulden't they do their due diligence????

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Thinking_Out_Loud 1 year, 2 months ago

none2 wrote: "I find it laughable that it is perfectly fine to throw millions at a building that really isn't of much architectural value...." On the contrary, a number of other sites refer to this building as representative of the architectural style of the time, and retaining a high level of integrity to the original design including original fixtures and other doodads. I believe that provides architectural value. Especially when we have a school of architecture locally who could take advantage of the teaching opportunities from having a building representative of a historical style so close by.

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gccs14r 1 year, 2 months ago

Install solar panels as part of the roofing job to offset heating and cooling costs.

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gccs14r 1 year, 2 months ago

If we did have local ground transportation stop there, a newsstand/coffee shop/deli could be an option. I'd really like to see one of these:

but that's better suited to areas with lots of pedestrian traffic.

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flloyd 1 year, 2 months ago

"Lawrence officials have been awarded a federal transportation grant that will pay for 80 percent of the approximate $1.5 million cost to renovate the Santa Fe depot in East Lawrence" and "The station already has received $1.5 million in upgrades to its boarding platform from Amtrak to help make the station ADA compliant" it's no wonder this country is broke beyond belief...

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JerryStubbs 1 year, 2 months ago

I have read that if AMTRAK abandons the western Kansas route, it will continue south from Hutchinson thru Oklahoma and then west to ABQ. Lawrence and Topeka will still be on the route but not Dodge City, Lamar, and Trinidad, CO. will not.

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chicago95 1 year, 2 months ago

Congratulations to all involved in these projects. It sounds as though the city those the right projects in each grant category for which to seek funding. Much better than $660,000 to restore bricks and trolley tracks on one block of Indiana St. or almost as much to build the "sidewalk to nowhere" at Queens Rd.

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tomatogrower 1 year, 2 months ago

I hope Lawrence stays on the route. We went by train to Washington DC last year, and loved it. We eventually want to take a long trip out west too. Much more relaxing than air travel, and with all the delayed flights anymore, almost as fast. Plus, no one is screaming at you if you take a nap and drive into a ditch. The sleeper cabs are great with great attendants and good food. I didn't expect such gourmet food on a train.

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tomatogrower 1 year, 2 months ago

Anyway, it would be nice if the cross country buses could share the depot. And it was the city bus downtown hub. They it would be open all the time. Right now it's only open when a train is due, twice a day, going east around 5:00 am and again going west around midnight. It could be used much more for other purposes.

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blindrabbit 1 year, 2 months ago

none2: Don't cotton to the comment about "not knowing too much about railroad lines".. I just completed a masochistic rail trip of the West in 15 days. Enjoyed, but too much, too little time: About 11,400 miles. Amtrak agent in Topeka thought I was crazy.

Lawrence to Los Angeles via SW Chief Los Angeles to Seattle via Coast Starlight (best part) Seattle to Chicago via Empire Builder Chicago to San Antonio via Texas Eagle (least likely to repeat) San Antonio to Los Angeles via Southern Limited Los Angeles to Sacramento via San Joaquin (now know why California is Ag. leader) Sacramento to Chicago via California Zephyr (Donner Pass Great) Chicago to Lawrence via SW Chief

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lhs96299 1 year, 2 months ago

This is good news because the nearby river squatters and transients need a more attractive building to hang around and urinate on.

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patkindle 1 year, 2 months ago

it is great to be a part of govt waste and the pork barrel spending we all hate when it happens in douglas county

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blindrabbit 1 year, 2 months ago

Know only too well that Amtrak does not own any of the rail lines it uses. As far as the KC/OKC connection. The talk I heard is that maybe a dedicated bus between Oklahoma City and Newton or Hutchinson, allowing a "connection" between the Northern Flyer and the Southwest Chief. When in Fort Worth the flyer seemed to have a pretty decent ridership to OKC. These bus connections are not unheard of: (1) Daily both ways between Raton, New Mexico and Denver, connecting (in a sense) the Southwest Chief and the California Zephyr. (2) Between Los Angeles and Bakersfield (connecting LA trains) to the San Joaquin. What would seem logical to me is a dedicated bus from between Omaha/Lincoln and say Topeka thus connecting the SW Chief and the Cal. Zephyr. Tired of driving to Osceola, Iowa or Omaha to catch the Zephyr..

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Kckemp51 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree! And our government looked the other way! We also had a bus from Lawrence to Tulsa, what happened to that? We get a lot of passengers from Ft. Riley/Juction City and Manhattan to catch KCI Roadrunner doesn't even run!

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Dale Stringer 1 year, 2 months ago

The was an article a few weeks ago in the Wichita Eagle about extending the line from Okie City north to Wichita (and I assume Newton). That way Amtrak will have a KC-San Antonia line.

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gccs14r 1 year, 2 months ago

And yet they'll spend the $44 million many times over on roads for cars, and those roads require much more maintenance.

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chootspa 1 year, 2 months ago

You know, they check your government issued ID when you board the train.

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LeBo 1 year, 2 months ago

Took the train from Lawrence to Chicago. It was one of the top five family trips!

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grammaddy 1 year, 2 months ago

Glad to hear it. I don't fly so this is always a starting point when I travel.

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Swiss_Frank 1 year, 2 months ago

This 1.5M plus last years' 1.5M, divided by the 6608 people who actually rode the train last year, is $453 per rider. If its 10 years before similar-sized upgrades are necessary, that'd be about $45/ticket.

My question to the people who are riding: if you loved the ride so much, wouldn't you be willing to pay the full cost yourself? EG, an extra $45?

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Kckemp51 1 year, 2 months ago

Yeah well, how many times will you use the new I-35 interchange? The new U.S. 69 interchange with I-435? What about all the aircraft carriers and the mountains of food required to keep the sailors fed? It's a drop in the bucket for the depot. Private enterprise built and maintained it, and the public abandonded it, because the goverrnment helped finance airports and built the nterstate highways.

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wprop 1 year, 2 months ago

Time to fix up the cargo cult airport "terminal" ....where not a single commercial plane has arrived in 25+ years of waiting....at least trains do come to station....

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Bob Forer 1 year, 2 months ago

To the headline writer: one does not "win" a grant; one is "awarded" a grant.

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jafs 1 year, 2 months ago

$3 million seems like a lot of money for a small depot renovation.

Anybody know why on earth it costs that much?

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killjoy 1 year, 2 months ago

Dear Lord. I could build a beautiful hours for 1.2 million. It must be in terrible shape. I've been inside it and it's not historic, it's useless. It needs to be razed What the hell is wrong with their priorities to spend money on unnecessary and ridiculous crap like this? Even if it's a grant, it increases the deficit. Absolutely irresponsible.

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2002 1 year, 2 months ago

Objections from neighbors to improving a building and increasing its use so it won't sit there and rot?

Once again, the east Lawrence residents crying about stuff because they hate progress. I've been abound here since the 60's and they don't change. The same contrarian attitude.

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ontheright 1 year, 2 months ago

YEAH! Free money falling from the sky!

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