A new boarding platform for train passengers at Springfield’s Union Station may be open in time for the busy holiday travel season.
The new “Platform C,” as it is called, is expected to be fully operational in the next few weeks once work is finished on the elevator that will bring passengers between Union Station’s main concourse and the overhead train tracks.
"So it is right around the corner," said Chris Moskal, executive director of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, which owns Union Station. He said once Platform C opens, the old elevator shaft can be sealed off to stop water from leaking down into the pedestrian tunnel.
And that, Moskal said, will mark the finish to the $95 million restoration of Union Station, which first opened in 1926.
"So by winter we will be 100 percent complete," said Moskal.
The new high-level rail passenger platform had to be built in order to meet accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. The current platform is too narrow by six inches.
But the $9 million project to build a track level platform, elevator, and stairs, could not be finished by the time Union Station reopened to the public as a multi-model transportation hub in June 2017.
In anticipation of the opening of the new platform, Amtrak vice president Thomas Moritz announced last June that the passenger rail company had moved its ticketing and other passenger services into Union Station and closed a track-level waiting room.
" We thought it would be beneficial to both Amtrak passengers and the other users of the station to have us in this consolidated area, so we were very much looking forward to moving down here as quickly as we could," said Moskal.
Amtrak recently reported an increase in ridership on train routes that go through Springfield. This includes the Hartford Line, the Vermonter, and the Lake Shore Limited – the only east-west train that stops in Springfield.
In September, Amtrak begin operating twice-daily round trip trains between Springfield and Greenfield with stops in Holyoke and Northampton on what is scheduled to be a two-year pilot.
While ridership numbers are not available yet, Moskal said the initial feedback he’s received has been positive.
"So, we are very very pleased to hear from the public and their reaction," said Moskal.
The SRA continues to market Union Station to potential tenants. About 70 percent of the available space is now rented.
With increased revenue from leases and the parking garage and cuts in expenses, Union Station’s finances are improving.
In the current fiscal year that started on July 1st, the city reduced its annual subsidy by 23 percent to $980,000 from $1.2 million in the prior year.