As the old Schenectady Amtrak station came crumbling down Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped in the city to tout the $23 million structure that will replace it.
Joined by state and local officials, Cuomo highlighted recent positive developments in Schenectady, saying a new train station is part of that. The station has been due for an overhaul for several years, and the new structure is expected to be completed by November 2018.
“You see how one piece complements the other piece,” Cuomo said of development in the city. “Rivers (Casino) is going to complement Mohawk Harbor, which is going to bring more people into town, so we’re going to have a new train station.”
As Cuomo spoke, crews began tearing down the old station. The demolition is expected to be completed Wednesday. It’s unclear when construction of the new building will start, but the state will solicit bids for a contract this fall.
The existing Amtrak station, built in the 1970s at the corner of Erie Boulevard and Liberty Street, has been described by local leaders as “an embarrassment,” “past its prime” and “third-world.”
The latest iteration of the replacement station harkens back to the old Union Station built in the early 1900s. The structure will have a golden dome topped with a weather vane shaped like New York state, modern arched windows and expanded seating. It will be ADA compliant.
The inside will feature images of the Erie Canal and the former American Locomotive Co. train yard and other memorabilia, in an effort to illustrate the city’s history.
The new design also calls for retail space, charging stations and digital display systems to provide schedule information. The old station alerted passengers of train status changes via a corkboard.
“This train station is going to be a great addition. It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen fast, it’s going to be done by the end of next year, isn’t that right Commissioner Driscoll?” Cuomo said, looking at the head of the state Department of Transportation. “He says if it’s not done by the end of next year, you can call him.”
Plans for the upgrades have been discussed for several years. The demolition and construction project hit a snag in 2016 when a single contract bid came in roughly $10 million over budget.
In the time since, the project was redesigned, Cuomo pledged state funding to help get the project done, and the demolition and construction contracts were split in two, lowering the cost.
Cuomo pushed for more financing more recently, something that made the latest design upgrades possible, Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said. In total, the state will provide $19 million in funding, with federal money covering the rest.
“(Cuomo) has helped make sure it’s a facility that reflects the region,” McCarthy said.
Artist's rendering. (Provided)
While the city waits for a permanent replacement, a temporary station has been assembled in a trailer in the parking lot on the other side of Liberty Street. Passengers can utilize a temporary platform there as well.
About 60,000 passengers per year board a train at the Schenectady station, but officials are hopeful that number will increase with the opening of Rivers Casino & Resort and increased tourism promotion efforts locally.