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Railroad ready

More than a decade in the making, renovations to Lancaster’s Amtrak
station are poised to go out for bid at the end of the month.

More than a decade in the making, renovations to Lancaster’s Amtrak
station
are poised to go out for bid at the end of the month.

“It’s a really beautiful building, and it’s going to be
spruced up and made to look like it should,” said James Cowhey, executive
director of the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

“(Renovations) will make it more convenient, cleaner,
brighter and more inviting.”

The un-air-conditioned and heavily used station is sweltering during the summer, and
parking has long been a struggle at the site. In addition, the once-grand
80-year-old building is showing its age.

Renovations were initially put in motion to modernize the
station and encourage more people to travel by rail.

On the docket:

• additional parking, retail and meeting space;

• a renovated Capitol Trailways bus terminal;

• better heating and the addition of air conditioning;

• realigning the driveway with Duke Street and relocating the taxi
drop-off area;

• renovated Amtrak offices;

• and rehabilitation of the station inside and out,
including façade cleaning and more attractive landscaping.

The county anticipates awarding contracts for the $12
million project in April, with construction beginning in May or June, said Dave
Royer, the planning commission’s director for transportation planning.

Broken down, $9.6 million of project funding will come from
the federal government, $2 million from state capital funds and $400,000 from
the county, Royer said.

The project will take about a year and a half to finish,
said Doug Warfel, chief of the transportation division for KCI Technologies
Inc.
‘s Northeast Region.

The county hired the Maryland-based company to perform
construction management, while New York-based architectural firm Cooper Carry developed the improvement plans, Royer said.

Officials had hoped to complete the station renovations
before the opening of the hotel/convention center downtown – now slated for
late April and itself a project that faced myriad postponements. 

County officials have said regulatory and procedural delays
have slowed the station project, but they are hopeful it is finally moving forward.
A feasibility study for work on the station was completed in 1998.

The station at 53
E. McGovern Ave. dates from 1929 and is listed on
the National Register of Historic Places as part of the city’s historic
district. The station is Amtrak’s third-most-used station in Pennsylvania,
Cowhey said, as many Lancaster County residents commute daily to Harrisburg
or Philadelphia.

The station will remain open during renovations, and parking
will not be affected, officials have said, but they advise building in some
extra time to arrive once work starts.

Renovations will add 62 parking spaces – bringing the total
to 237 – which will partially address the station’s oft-cited lack of parking.
Cowhey said a dearth of funding has postponed efforts in this area.

“We’ve wrung out as many total spaces as we can, and we are
working on it,” he said.

Cowhey said he hopes the revitalized station will spur
economic development in the surrounding neighborhood. Growth already is primed
to occur not far down the rail line from the station at the Lancaster
Stockyards site.

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