The Schenectady Amtrak station's parking lot has turned into a construction site as equipment is positioned for the start of the two-phase project that will replace the crumbling building with a new one.
Parts of the parking lot at Erie Boulevard and Liberty Street were blocked off this week with construction fencing, and a large crane now towers over the two-story station and adjoining tracks. The station has closed, with passenger boardings shifted to a new temporary platform constructed by Amtrak.
Amtrak is advising people taking a train to not arrive more than 30 minutes early and to plan on being picked up and dropped off, due to the limited temporary parking facilities. There are also no ticket sales at the temporary location. The closest in-person ticket sales will be at the Rensselaer station.
The state Department of Transportation demolition contract was awarded to Bette & Cring LLC of Latham, which submitted the low bid at just over $5.4 million. DOT officials couldn't say Thursday when demolition will actually start.
The work will include removing the current Amtrak station, making concrete and structural repairs around the existing station platform, and installing new concrete culverts at several locations beneath the tracks, which run on an elevated berm.
The culvert and concrete work is supposed to be done with minimal disruption to Amtrak and freight service, according to the contract.
Construction of the new station will go through a separate bidding process this fall.
Planning for a new station began nearly a decade ago. But after a single contract for demolition and construction in 2016 came in at nearly $25 million — $10 million above budget — state officials decided to separate the demolition and construction contracts, hoping to lower the cost.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year highlighted the need for a new Schenectady station, briefly visiting in February. He promised to provide the funding to get the project done, saying the state would pay up to $15 million, to go with $10 million in federal funding.
Plans call for demolition and track repairs to be completed this year. Passengers boarding at Schenectady will use the temporary platform Amtrak has built on the north side of Liberty Street; the construction plan calls for Bette & Cring to provide temporary bathrooms for passengers.
Construction of the new station is expected in 2018, with the goal of having it open in late 2018.
Schenectady officials have said a new train station is important to downtown's redevelopment. The new station is to resemble the demolished Union station more than the utilitarian Amtrak station that opened in 1979.
About 60,000 passengers per year now board a train at Schenectady, but local officials believe the station could become busier with the opening of the Rivers Casino and Resort, as well as Schenectady County's heightened tourism promotion efforts. The station is also on a planned high-speed rail corridor between New York City and Niagara Falls.