‘This is more than a building’: New train station opens in Schenectady

It was revealed during an event on Wednesday
The main lobby of the new Schenectady Amtrak Station officially opened Wednesday, October 17, 2018.
The main lobby of the new Schenectady Amtrak Station officially opened Wednesday, October 17, 2018.

SCHENECTADY — The concourse of the newly built $23 million Schenectady Amtrak station was packed Wednesday with state and local dignitaries waiting to hear what announcement Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul had for them.

“I want to go out on a limb here and kind of guess that the cat’s out of the bag about what I’m here for,” Hochul said, evoking laughter. “The train station is opening today — under budget and under time.”

Construction of the new station began in January and was finished approximately two weeks before its anticipated completion date, as state officials previously said it would be done by November.

Hochul gave a reason for why the project was completed faster than expected.

“[Gov. Andrew Cuomo] is the most impatient person in the state,” Hochul joked. “I’m probably second to him.”

Hochul went on to explain that, when working on a project, the state will try to cut costs where it can. So, if a project can be done earlier than expected, while also saving money, the state pushes for that.

“That’s our incentive,” Hochul said. “And we’re proud to be opening it on a beautiful fall day.”

During a visit to the train station in Feb. 2017, Cuomo said the state would contribute up to $15 million — coupled with $10 million in federal funding — to the project.

The state eventually provided $17 million for construction, according to Hochul, along with an additional $2 million for engineering services and “other project costs.”

According to a press release, Amtrak also contributed $220,000 for the passenger information display system. The Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority gave $48,000 for the project, and the federal Railroad Administration ponied up $3.6 million.

Speaking inside the new train station, Hochul highlighted other funding the state has devoted to the city, including $3 million announced on Oct. 10 for the new Boys & Girls Club, which will be built in Quackenbush Park.

Also: How the station looks inside and out, Oct. 17, 2018

Hochul said people will be impressed by the new station.

“This is more than a building. It’s more than a piece of infrastructure,” Hochul said. “It’s a statement of who a community is. And I also believe that, when the first train pulls in here and people see this for the very first time, they will understand something that we’ve known for a long time: It’s that Schenectady matters.”

Mayor Gary McCarthy called the station’s opening “a day that all should be proud of.”

The project was a partnership among state, local and federal entities, McCarthy said, adding that it will give upstate travelers another transportation option to the area. 

It’s also a continuation of what many other officials referred to Wednesday as the revitalization of Schenectady.

“It’s just a great time to be here,” McCarthy said. “This is a fantastic project.”

The station’s construction was completed in two phases. The first was demolition of the old station, done by Bette & Cring of Latham under a $5.4 million contract. That work also included repairs to the elevated viaduct that brings the tracks through downtown.

The second phase, construction of the new station, was done by Murnane Building Contractors of Plattsburgh under a $10.4 million contract.

During the construction period, passengers traveling to and from Schenectady had to use a temporary platform Amtrak built on the north side of Liberty Street.

In September, a gold-colored dome and a 6-foot clock were added to the new station.

The clock was meant to recall the aesthetics of the original Union Station, which was built in 1910 but was demolished in 1971.

The rest of the station was also built to pay homage to Union Station, according to state Department of Transportation spokesman Bryan Viggiani.

“This really harkens back to those architectural cues and the look and feel [of the former Union Station],” Viggiani said.

The new building features multistory arched windows and a high-vaulted ceiling inside. It also includes large flat-screen televisions that greet travelers when they enter. The TVs display images that tell the history of the city from its beginnings to the present day.

The station also has some artifacts in the concourse area, some of which reference Dutch colonization of the area in the 1660s, Hochul said.

“You get that sense of real deep history,” Hochul said. “We’re not talking the 1800s. You get a sense this community goes back literally centuries.”

Wednesday was the first time McCarthy was able to get a look at the new station, he said.

“It’s going to create that positive image we want for Schenectady,” he said.

First Impressions

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul noted in an event announcing the opening of the new Schenectady Amtrak station on Wednesday that passengers coming through for the first time would be impressed.

“They walk in here, their jaws are going to drop,” Hochul said. “I guarantee it.”

Indeed, some of the first passengers to embark and disembark from the station Wednesday expressed amazement.

Karen Moyak of Niskayuna said she travels to and from New York City often and uses the Schenectady station. 

Also: How the station looks inside and out, Oct. 17, 2018

She had just arrived from the first train to offload passengers Wednesday, after leaving for NYC on Monday.

“It’s not even an improvement,” Moyak said. “It’s a whole new world. That’s how much of an improvement it is.”

Maryless Kaue of San Francisco was in town to visit friends and family. She was taking the first train to depart from the station Wednesday, heading to Poughkeepsie.

While it was her first time at the station, she was excited to be on the first train out the new space.

“I think it’s great fun; why not?” Kaue said. “It’s always good to be the first at anything, as long as it’s a good thing.”

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