Additional taxpayers’ money will be used to cover the costs to operate Springfield’s Union Station in the first year since it reopened.
The Springfield City Council approved $146,000 to keep the transportation center running in the black as it approaches the one-year anniversary of its reopening.
Initially, the amount of the city’s subsidy for first-year operations at Union Station was $750,000. Revenues were lower than expected, forcing the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, which owns the building, to request more money from the city.
City Council President Orlando Ramos said it was expected Union Station would require a subsidy from the city to get through its first few years.
" We would obviously prefer not to subsidize it, but it is a beautiful building, vital to the revitalization of downtown Springfield, so I think the pros out weigh the cons," said Ramos.
Originally built in 1926, Union Station gradually declined after World War II as train travel waned. It fell into disrepair and was closed in 1970. It reopened last June after a $95 million restoration paid for by the federal and state governments. It now serves as a transportation hub for passengers on Amtrak trains, inter-city and transit buses.
It is not unusual for such transportation centers to require municipal subsidies. Union Station in Worcester has received an annual subsidy from the city ever since it reopened in 2000 following a restoration.
The prospect for such a long-term commitment of city tax dollars in Springfield troubles City Councilor Jesse Lederman.
" If we are looking at a perpetual line item, I think we are going to have to come up with a mechanism to fund this that does not lay it completly on the backs of Springfield taxpayers," said Lederman.
In addition to the subsidy from the city, Union Station received $500,000 from MGM as part of the company’s casino development agreement with the city. Revenue also comes from the building’s tenants.
SRA Executive Director Chris Moskal said the available space in Union Station is 71 percent occupied.
" So we are right on there and we have a couple of other interested parties for the remainder of the space in the building, which is the mezzanine level and a portion of the space on the second floor, " said Moskal.
MassDOT recently awarded a contract for $8.2 million to build a new rail boarding platform at Union Station.
New high-speed rail service between Springfield and New Haven is to begin in the middle of June.