With an $82 million renovation of the derelict Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts under way, officials went looking for guidance from transit-oriented development in two Connecticut cities.
A delegation of business and civic leaders from greater Springfield got a possible glimpse of the future when they looked out over the ornate great hall of Union Station in New Haven, Ct. where 11,000 people a day pass through mostly off commuter trains to New York City.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, who is the driving force behind Springfield’s Union Station development, led Monday’s rail-themed tour. He heaped praise on New Haven’s transportation center during a news conference with Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.
" What you have done here in New Haven is not only notable, but I think visionary," said Neal. " This station is very welcoming, when I saw the signage on the way in. It is exactly what we have in mind for ticketing. It is exactly what we have in mind for limited retailing when we start."
Neal said he believes Springfield’s transportation center when it opens in 2016 will not require a large government subsidy to fund its annual operations.
" No, I think it is going to be a prime location. I think it will be enhanced by easier and greater access. I think commercial activity inside the building including some substantial rentals, I think a lot of good things can happen."
David Panagore, Acting Executive Director of Park New Haven, which operates the train station, said revenue from the facility’s parking garage is key to paying for the annual operating expenses. He urged the visitors from Springfield to work at attracting unique retailers—not necessarily chains—to Springfield’s Union Station and to stress service and safety to the traveling public.
" The only challenge is the number of users. Springfield now having the casino going in is really going to help drive the number of visitors."
The number of trains traveling between Hartford and Springfield is expected to increase to at least 12 per day by the end of 2016 as a result of federally funded upgrades to the rails, signals and crossings.
The train station in Hartford is in the midst of a $35 million upgrade to accommodate stops by the city’s fixed route transit buses. Likewise, Springfield’s Union Station will become the center of operations for the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority and the Springfield-based Peter Pan Bus Company.
Armando Feliciano, chairman of the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, which owns Springfield’s station, said he learned a lot during the visits to the New Haven and Hartford train stations.
" To come here and look at this and say what can we do to make sure everything connects right to produce a successful outcome for everybody."
Hartford’s transportation center is in an area of the city known as the entertainment district, with numerous restaurants and bars. Officials said 1,500 market rate apartments are being developed near New Haven’s Union Station.
Construction workers last week demolished the former baggage building at Springfield’s Union Station. That space will be used for parking and bays for the PVTA buses.