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Rebuilding, restoration progresses inside Union Station

July 10, 2014

G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Although while driving by the city’s venerable Union Station one might not see too much progress on its conversion to an intermodal travel center, there is actually much activity happening.

Christopher Moskal, director of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority (SRA), hosted a tour of the building with Congressman Richard Neal and Mayor Domenic Sarno on July 2.

According to materials distributed by Moskal, the first phase of the project is underway. Costing $65.7 million, the improvements will include: restoration of the terminal building and its central concourse with consolidation of transit functions and 7,000 square feet of commercial space; removal of the baggage building – which is the section of the building closest to Main Street – and construction of a 26-bay bus terminal and a 250-space parking garage.

Amtrak, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority, Peter Pan Buslines and taxis would operate out of this building. Moskal said he has a letter of commitment from Peter Pan to make renovated station the company’s new terminal.

Neal referenced the long wait over decades to see reuse of the building opened as a train station in 1926 and said, “This is a legacy issue for me.”

The congressman recalled as a child being taken to the station by his grandmother and noted that area residents “left for war from here and this is where they came back.”

The station was closed in 1973.

Moskal pointed out the parking garage that was once on Frank B. Murray Street opposite the terminal has been demolished and will be made into an entrance to the new station.

Bob Aquadro, project manager for Daniel C. O’Connell & Sons, explained the removal of the baggage building was complicated by the fact that its rear wall was the support for the fright rail tracks above it. He explained that the wall would be reinforced so the removal of the rest of the structure will not affect those rail lines.

Inside the concourse, many of the details of the era of train travel are still there. There are long wooden benches were travelers waited for their trains. A lunch counter still has the posts for its stools, although the seats are missing. The ticket counters still have their metal grill windows and a large board on which the times table for trains is still on the wall.

There is a line of tape preventing people walking under the raised portion of the concourse and Moskal said that due to water seepage over the years the ceiling is unsafe. He added that all of the concourse would be restored to its original look.

The ticketing area will be reconstructed for the new tenants, Moskal added.

Aquadro said the original terrazzo floor will be restored as well and one of the terminal’s huge clocks will be rebuilt to run again.

“We will be saving various historical parts throughout,” Aquadro said.

The huge pedestrian tunnel that had been closed for decades under the train tracks that links Frank B. Murray Street to Lyman Street has been re-opened.

According to the schedule released by Moskal, the parking garage construction should start in November with the entire project opening in July 2016.

The second phase of the renovation will cost $9.5 million and will include the renovation of the upper floors of the building for office space and the addition of two levels of parking.

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