Raleigh Union Station Construction Update

Boylan Wye and Raleigh Union Station Construction, October 2016.

Boylan Wye and Raleigh Union Station Construction, October 2016. Click for larger.

We haven’t visited the construction site for Raleigh Union Station in a few months and this weekend, I went out to catch up on the progress. The weather was nice and the clouds were amazing, helping me land some great exposures of the site.

The photo above is the “money shot” of the station, taken from the Boylan Avenue bridge. A lot has happened since I grabbed a photo from the same spot in April.

Looking around we can spot a few things taking shape. Check the above photo out on Flickr so you can zoom in, out, and around.

In the foreground in front of the Dillon Supply Co. sign, the ticketing and baggage claim area is coming together. This area will also house Amtrak offices and general operations rooms.

The station will actually be bigger than the old warehouse that was at this location as this kind of exoskeleton of steel is starting to wrap it.

Boylan Wye and Raleigh Union Station Construction, October 2016.

Boylan Wye and Raleigh Union Station Construction, October 2016 as seen from Hargett Street.

It wasn’t much of a renovation but rather a reuse of some parts (and that’s still a stretch) as the building was gutted to the bones. This new framing should create the spaces for the new retail and restaurant space and their outdoor balconies and walkways.

I can probably guess that the mound of earth around the site came from the Union Station project as lots of land had to be moved for the parking lot and the new entrance along West Street.

Boylan Wye and Raleigh Union Station Construction, October 2016.

West Street being lowered to go into the parking lot of Union Station.

Above, you can see what the end of West Street looks like today. This mess will eventually have West Street going underneath the rail line and into the station. For additional reference, I’ve thrown up the site plan, with a few minor edits, which you can see how vehicle traffic is supposed to flow.

Raleigh Union Station site plan.

Raleigh Union Station site plan. Click for larger.

The last major thing I noticed was the process of working with the tracks themselves.

Track work taking pace around Raleigh Union Station.

Track work taking pace around Raleigh Union Station, near Cabarrus Street. Click for larger.

Track work taking pace around Raleigh Union Station.

Track work taking pace around Raleigh Union Station, near Cabarrus Street. Click for larger.

Looking at the station from Cabarrus Street, you will notice that only the active line to the current train station is intact. The rails on the left in the two photos above serve the station today while the rails on the right end before the construction site. It looks like that line is down for awhile until the bridge is built over the lowered West Street.

There also used to be other rail lines, two of these offshoot kind of tracks, in this area but those are gone now. Here’s an aerial shot from Google Maps to show you the four tracks mentioned here.

Track work taking pace around Raleigh Union Station.

Track work taking pace around Raleigh Union Station. Click for larger.

No doubt, this track rearrangement is making room for the new platform that will take passengers through a concourse underneath and between two new tracks. You can see that if you jump back up to the site plan.

Here are some other photos from my walk around the site.

Raleigh Union Station in October 2016 as seen from Hargett Street.

Raleigh Union Station in October 2016 as seen from Hargett Street.

Raleigh Union Station in October 2016 as seen from West Street.

Raleigh Union Station in October 2016 as seen from West Street.

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  1. Nice article! Lot’s of work put into it.

    Well, I love travelling Amtrak. It’s great taking the Durham stop out to Charlotte (just 30 bux!). The Charlotte Amtrak station is terrible, and the Durham one is fantastic after the remodel. Great having the wine bar next door.

    The Raleigh train station, like Charlotte’s, is also poorly in need of an upgrade. I can’t yet get a feeling for how the new Union Station will look inside. Anyone who has been in the Durham station have a understanding of how the new Raleigh station would compare?

  2. Ken,
    I think the Raleigh station is going to have more windows and a larger main hall. There’s supposed to be at least one retail and one food place, and there’s going to be second story seating with views of downtown. I think it’s going to feel bigger and more open than Durham Station.

    As far as Amtrak goes, I’m curious to know how long the $30 price is going to hold for the Piedmont. The PIP is going to add two or three daily trains (so there would be 5 Piedmont trains and one Carolinian, or six daily trains) and hopefully reduce the delays on the route. Once Gateway Station is finished, I imagine the price is going to jump, because it’ll be faster, more reliable, and way more convenient. (If you’re unfamiliar with the Gateway Station project, Charlotte’s new station is going to be across the street from the Knights baseball stadium Uptown, and it’s going to have way more parking. Like you said, the current station is terrible.)

  3. @Leo
    Awesome article and pictures, thank you!
    Question, if the designers/architects knew that they were going to do a total gut job, why do you think they are simply doing a rebuild with windows? Why not do a total gut job and re-angle the building or add more interest. Kind of like the City museum of Art? A square brick building but with a great glass entrance? Just some thoughts…:-)

  4. I personally think it would be great and obviously a dream – but to have a track that went from Union Station to Logan’s in Seaboard. A trolley car that went back and forth taking passengers to northern and southern parts of Raleigh. As we progress and get a Harris Teeter – it would be great for those on the southern side to have the ability to hop on a trolley… and get there along with everything else on the northern side easily. As well as the other way around. You could even maybe have one stop half way as well.

    I think this would be a great feature that Raleigh so desperately needs.

  5. @bob148. That’s a really interesting idea!
    It’s so interesting that I’d expect Amtrak to kill it immediately if formally proposed. :-(

  6. Robert, they didn’t do a total demo and rebuild in order get LEAD certification and whatever other certification is available. I can only speculate this was in order to secure as much funding as possible.

  7. I wonder if that Earth berm is going to remain as a landscaped feature? I sure hope so. The entire rail wye and new station are going to make the money shot from the Boylan Ave. Bridge sooooo much nicer. Once the Boylan Bridge BrewPub is finished being renovated and all of that comes together, the next thing that needs to go is that silo thing that remains to north of the berm and east of the Boylan Bridge BrewPub.
    With both the rail wye/station and Dillon projects completed, the view is going to be transformed!

  8. @John532 – I actually have always wished that someone would paint something interesting on that silo, I think it could make a great art piece.
    @Will – It won’t TOTALLY ruin that shot, in fact, I think it will make the shot more interesting. It will kind of pop up in between the Wells Fargo blding and PNC tower from that view. So, in effect, it will almost complete the skyline from that angle. I think it’s gonna look sweet!

  9. Anytime a new building goes up, we’re going to lose some kind of view. Possibly a “money shot.” But it’s progress and there will have to be new “money shots.”

  10. I think over time, the new “money shot” of our city will be from West St, on the hill between Wade and Peace. It truly covers the full scope of our skyline. I think the current popular money shot (looking up from S Saunders) is actually kinda lame and makes Raleigh look a lot smaller than it really is. Especially when One Glenwood, The Dillon, 401 Hillsborough, and the N&O lot are built up, the current “money shot” will be super outdated. But from West St, you will be able to see the whole shebang.

  11. @bob148 Love this idea. I had thought about this back when I sketched out the ballpark at Kindley Dr…having a “park and ride” for folks to park at station and trolley over to the park/RHA/DECPA/Convention Center…or trolley over to Dix park, there are existing tracks there as well. Would be really cool to have the station with trolley “spokes” going to other areas of interest.

  12. @WillG – yes I think that would be great as well if there is a path to get to the dix area.. yeah definitely have a “trolley” of some sorts go that direction as well.

    I think a stop at dix park would be great, a stop at union station, a stop at west jones street where it intersects with Glenwood ave and then a stop at logans in seaboard station would be awesome!

    Passengers would be able hop on and off at what will be our largest park- the warehouse district which will have the dillon, the food hall, and other restaurants, businesses and retail – the middle of South Glenwood ave, with restaurants, businesses and retail – and seaboard station with what will have a harris teeter along with other shops and restaurants.

    I wouldn’t think going much further would be good because you don’t want it to take to long for the next pick up time.

    Oh this would be great!

  13. Also, maybe trolley stops at NCSU/Pullen Park, Fairgrounds, and RHA/DECPA. To save $$, would it be possible to use the existing tracks and just build sidings for the stops? When I was at State, I would have loved to park and ride from Union Station to class everyday! Or even park and ride from U.S. to the fair would be awesome!

  14. KenA I am betting Union will be somewhere near double the size of the Durham station, though Durham will win in my heart for its historic merit.
    There is nice distant money shot from the CV HT parking deck and also from Peace/St Marys. But honestly I don’t Dillion will steal much from the Boylan Bridge view, but will rather add some nice depth to it.

  15. @Mark – I actually thought of mentioning the Cameron Village HT parking lot view too! I was just parked in the side lot the other day and marveled and how awesome the skyline looks from that distance! Agreed about the BB view – the Dillon will just bring the skyline closer!

  16. Just returned from San Diego where I easily hopped on the ‘Coaster’ train (not light rail) traveling 35 miles up the coast for $5.50. Would love to see a very affordable option to hop from Raleigh to Durham as part of the increased routes between Raleigh and Charlotte. Seems like they could help fill the train if they treated shorter routes like LR and made stops quicker.

    I’m unsure of how the logistics of the current Carolinian work, but the San Diego train would stop at each station for 90 seconds and really made a viable, quick alternative to driving between Carlsbad and the city for example.

  17. @Evan-Because the Piedmont and Carolinian are branded as full service Amtrak trains, you’ll have a tough time sticking to a 90 second dwell time (baggage service, coach assignment, etc.) However, with rebranded consists, or, an Amtrak-crewed commuter operation, a la Capitol Corridor (Sacramento-Oakland-San Jose) you could get decent service to NCSU, RTP, and Duke by dropping in some stations, along with current DTR, Cary, and DTD. This should have been done already, but since the great transit minds of the Triangle have always fixated on “light rail”, and complicating the matter thus, it hasn’t, isn’t, and probably won’t happen for a long while — @Leo-Good coverage of the RUS project. I’m really surprised that they haven’t skinned this one down to a glorified bus stop yet. Let’s hope they keep the faith…

  18. Evan, I encourage you to read the Wake Transit Plan, Coaster is a commuter rail, which is also proposed in the Wake plan. The idea is that eventually there will be multiple daily trains starting in Garner (or possibly Clayton) and running to Durham Station (and eventually to Hillsborough and possibly Burlington) along the existing Piedmont line. Coaster has something like 20 trains per day, I think the Wake commuter rail will start off with like 7 per day, and add frequency as density increases along the line. Piedmont already has relatively full trains, and the vast majority of passengers travel between Charlotte and either Raleigh, Durham, or Greensboro (I can post the Piedmont report card if you want). Piedmont should focus on intercity travel, while the commuter rail (not to be confused with the Durham-Orange light rail) will focus on the kind of frequent, regional service you’re describing.

  19. Thanks all, I wrote this comment before reading the transit plan and consequently voted for the tax referendum yesterday. I realize the commuter rail will take the longest and cost the most to implement, but I’m excited for it. Also excited to give the Raleigh to Charlotte route a try once they finish the PIP. Hopefully fares won’t appreciate from where they currently are!

  20. Congrats on getting your transit tax passed — finally. @Steve — I would suggest running the thing all the way to Goldsboro from Hillsborough, if no other reason than to include more of the Eastern Seaboard for political purposes. (I also think it would help even out the headways as well.) @All — Suggestion: I can’t remember the system that did it, but I think it was overseas. In order to fast-track a rail project, a crowdfunding effort was started, that explicitly earmarked funds for rail, then the governing body was asked to pitch in matching funds from the revenue source that was in the kitty for the build. Govt. officials have a hard time saying no to cash subsidies, and the public gets the message that the rail project is prioritized. In return, the contributing public got deep discounts on the fares over a set startup time — I think it was two years. I would also contend that a full or partial tax credit could be issued by the county in this case, as well. If crowdfunding could be instigated to the level of acquiring power and consists for the commuter rail operation, you could start putting trains in service nearly immediately, w/o EIS, etc., as a continuance of prior use matter. (That may be the case, anyway…IDK) In any case, good luck, gang. Out here in California, with the exception of LA and San Jose, we are in the grip of transit fatigue. The Triangle finally caught a break. So make the most of it…

  21. @Chas. Clayton was the furthest east terminal that had been mentioned in the still somewhat amorphous “10 year plan”. If the commuter rail is a success then they’re also talking about running it up towards Wake Forest. I think Goldsboro is definitely a long-term possibility (like 15+ years) and I could see it serving to revitalize the downtown there. Having grown up in Fuquay, I’d love to see either BRT or CR running south out of Raleigh some day (and I believe that will happen) as well as from Apex/Sanford to the southwest. Alas, right now the proposal is (wisely) just 10 years. Raleigh’s population is projected to be near 700,000 by 2030.

  22. I have visited the building a couple of years back, having been involved in the signage design as part of the overall station design team.

    Inside, there were some wonderful colorful large-scale graffiti. I took pix of them all. Unfortunately, the insides of the old building were razed, and with that, these were lost for all time.

    But could you check if another local photographer took pic and it would be kind of cool if these could be blown up to be hung in the terminal.

    If you’d like jpegs, pls let me know.

    Best, Steve

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