Waterloo gets Amtrak grant

June 13th, 2012

News Coverage:

Waterloo gets Amtrak grant

By Aaron Organ aorgan@kpcnews.net

Wednesday, June 13, 2012, 1:00am

WATERLOO — The Town of Waterloo has been awarded a $1.8 million federal grant to build a new Amtrak station just east of the historic depot, the town’s council learned Tuesday evening.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has formally awarded and obligated the grant to the town on the heels of an agreement with Amtrak and the Norfolk Southern railroad to erect a closed, heated and lighted station, with passenger platforms on both sides of the tracks and a small parking area. Amtrak will contribute $4.9 million to the project.

The council voted unanimously to sign the grant agreement and effectively accept the funds.

“This has been a long time coming,” a noticeably gleeful council President Candi Surber said of the grant process. “We have been up and down and back and forth trying to get all of these agencies to agree on the same thing at the same time.”

The station, to be built on the east side of Center Street, will sit on the north side of the tracks and will be handicap-accessible and include restrooms. A bus-hut-type facility will be built on the south side of the tracks.

The station will include arrival and departure information displays for passengers inside the building.

Town Manager DeWayne Nodine said construction on the project is tentatively set to begin in early 2013 and be completed by late 2013 or early 2014. The town should receive the funds by September, Nodine said.

Nodine said the town now will begin working with Amtrak to draft a contract. Language must be developed to determine which entity will own and/or operate the station, among other details. Nodine hopes to reach a contract within the next few weeks.

Councilmembers were visibly excited to divulge the news before Tuesday evening’s meeting. Surber announced to the assemblage: “You picked an exciting meeting to attend. We have some wonderful news to share not just with the community, but the region.”

As it stands now, the Amtrak line handles 19,000-20,000 passengers out of the Waterloo depot annually, ranking it near the busiest in the state. With talk of high-speed rail service being considered for Fort Wayne, some feared Amtrak might look to abandon the town.

Now, it appears the rail company is commited to Waterloo, and town officials are optimistic.

“This shows Amtrak is dedicated to this line,” said Councilman Nathan Diehl.

“This is a game changer for the town of Waterloo in terms of helping in the future with downtown revitalization,” said Surber.

The project has been significantly altered from where it began several years ago, with the idea of using the town’s historic depot as the station. Through the stages, that idea was tossed after it was realized the depot was not up to the task, and the idea for a new station east of Center Street was born. Amtrak and Norfolk Southern each eventually came on board, with a final hangup being Norfolk Southern’s insistence that the tracks pass over Center Street. The demand was eventually solved with the plan for a dual passenger platform.