SPRINGFIELD — After being closed for about 44 years, Union Station in Springfield will once again open its doors to passengers.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, speaking at a media event Monday in the renovated station, said he made a promise when he first ran for City Council in 1977 that he would work to ensure the Springfield train station was brought back to life. The following decades brought $95 million in restorations. After two years of construction, the station is ready to reopen in June.
“Opportunity beckoned and we took advantage of it,” Neal said, noting that $80 million of the project cost was covered by federal grants. The balance came from the state.
Amtrak currently runs six north-south trains a day through the station, a number that is expected to increase in early 2018 when the Connecticut Department of Transportation increases passenger service with as many as 12 more trains to Springfield per day. Connecticut is making significant improvement to the rail line connecting New Haven to Springfield.
“This will be the portal by which everyone is coming through,” said Neal’s chief of staff, William Tranghese.
In addition to the north-south lines, Mayor Domenic Sarno said he hopes to establish an east-west connection, “in this lifetime,” to run through to Boston.
Currently, trains run north to St. Albans, Vermont, and south to New Haven, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Vermont officials are still working to re-establish a rail link to Montreal.
The reopening of Union Station is anticipated to bring more traffic to downtown Springfield, said Sarno, including pedestrian traffic, which will benefit local businesses.
“(It’s) back to the future,” he said, adding that millennials will appreciate the added transportation services, while older generations will enjoy the nostalgia of the train station.
Joseph Mamayek, an architect for HDR Architecture P.C., said he tried to balance original aspects of the 1926 train station with something new and innovative as he worked on the project.
The brick station sits on the corner of Frank B. Murray and Dwight streets, with a red awning welcoming commuters. Bright natural light fills the newly renovated Grand Concourse. To the right of the entrance, a salvaged baggage cart is on display. To the left, murals by local artist Ed Pessolano detailing Springfield’s history hang on the wall. On the back wall sits the station’s original clock, which was repaired.
The station’s former baggage building, demolished in 2014, has been replaced with an open-air bus station with 26 bays and a six-story, 377-space parking garage for transit passenger’s vehicles.
The new space includes a completely renovated Terminal Building and its central concourse to support ticketing, waiting and support areas for Amtrak, intercity and state-supported regional rail service as well as regional Pioneer Valley Transportation Authority and intercity bus operations.
“(The station) is the heart of the city and the trains themselves are like the arteries,” said Mamayek, who began work on the project in 2012. The train station has a long history of connecting people, he said.
Additionally, the station includes 64,000 square feet of commercial space on the upper floors of the Terminal Building.
Union Station was Springfield’s fourth train station when it was built in 1926, and it continued in operation until 1973.
“When working on a project that has so much majesty and legacy, you want to respect that,” Mamayek said.