Taking the train — and I mean a real one, the kind that chugs — in Charlotte is inconvenient. The station is up North Tryon and you can’t really walk to it. There are never enough parking spots, and every time I’ve gone I’ve been worried I’d get towed. The waiting room is tiny.
For almost two decades now, city and state leaders have wanted to change that by building a massive transit center uptown.
Called the Charlotte Gateway Station, this would house a new Amtrak station, bus station plus a Great Hall that would link everything together and have 18,000 square feet of retail shops. You’ll notice the Norfolk Southern train tracks already run right by there. The idea is to be able to easily get there from anywhere in the city, and then take a train to Raleigh or Atlanta or even New York City.
Eventually, the city also wants to have a massive plaza, retail and a mixed-use tower on the site.
These two images are very old and very conceptual.
People have been waiting on this project for years. But it took a big leap forward Wednesday when Gov. Pat McCrory announced that the state had won a $25 million federal grant to support the project. The money would be used on design and construction of track and safety work. Last year, the state got a more general $200,000 grant for idea development work. This is much more solid.
Using the $25 million grant plus state money and previous grants, Mayor Dan Clodfelter now says the funding is in place to proceed on phase one. That would build an interim station uptown, transfer Amtrak service, build the platforms and improve the tracks.
Later phases, which would require much more money, would build the massive station hub and all the other stuff.
This is a big deal. Countries like Spain make it easy to get from big city to big city by rail. It’s past due for the Southeast, and why shouldn’t Charlotte be a pioneer?
Update: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (you’ll known him as former Charlotte mayor) came to town Thursday to provide more details on the project. He called the track work the $25 million will pay for the “linchpin to everything,” and will do the construction that investors and other funders want to see before they commit money. He said groundbreaking on phase one could come as soon as in 18 months.
(Photo credits: Header image comes from the N.C. Department of Transportation. The renderings come from the City of Charlotte)