Delaware train station to get $26 million upgrade [video]

     Groundbreaking ceremony for Newark Regional Transportation Center (Photo courtesy of DelDOT)

    Groundbreaking ceremony for Newark Regional Transportation Center (Photo courtesy of DelDOT)

    A $26 million project will convert the outdated Newark train station into a modern, environmentally-friendly transportation hub, as well as improve safety and access.

    A ceremonial groundbreaking was held at the SEPTA and Amtrak stop in Newark Monday, signaling the start of a project long in the making. Improvements will include a wheelchair-accessible platform, expanded parking and passenger amenities, like a station building with nicer bathrooms.

    Once it’s complete, the stop will be renamed the Newark Regional Transportation Center.

    “This is a great day! This is a great day for Newark, for the University of Delaware, for the state of Delaware,” said U.S. Senator Chris Coons, D-Delaware, who commutes to Washington, D.C. almost daily by Amtrak.

    “Not too long ago I was on the Northeast Regional that stops here in Newark and it is striking to see passengers get off and literally walk across the tracks. Tracks, whereas as you’ll see any moment, relatively high-speed rail zips up and down the Northeast Corridor. This will get fixed and this will get fixed because of a long-term collaborative effort between all of us,” Coons said.

    “Out of adversity comes opportunity and there’s great opportunity here and we’re seizing that day,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, referencing the adversity felt after Chrysler announced it would shutter its car manufacturing plant in Newark in 2008. “And a big part of that is the announcement of actually the groundbreaking for our transit center.”

    When the University of Delaware purchased the land in 2009 and eventually converted it into its Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) campus, conversations about modernizing the station began. STAR is home to a health sciences complex, a manufacturer of clean fuel cells and a test lab for zero-emissions vehicles.

    “This project represents an important part of our efforts to support the rebirth of the former Chrysler plant property. Having a modern rail facility in Newark is another great incentive for growing companies to choose the STAR Campus,” said Governor John Carney, D-Delaware.

    “What this represents is really like a phoenix, you know. The ashes of a plant have now spawned a STAR campus. This train station, to me, represents Newark and the growth and the beauty of this city,” said Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware.

    “The Newark Regional Transportation Center is a result of numerous parties – DelDOT, Governor Carney, our Congressional Delegation, the University of Delaware, Amtrak, and SEPTA – listening to the needs of our residents and business communities about how we can improve mass transit along the Northeast Corridor,” Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan said.

    The project is largely federally-funded by a $10 million TIGER IV grant. Additional funding comes from the state, New Castle County, the University of Delaware, the city of Newark and the Wilmington Area Planning Council.

    Many, including UD’s Executive Vice President Alan Brangman, see renovating the train station as a catalyst for economic growth to the region.

    “For the first time you’ll be able to ride all the way from Washington to New York on commuter lines. That is amazing,” Brangman said. “University of Delaware’s STAR Campus is designed to link academic research and innovation with industry, today’s groundbreaking is the embodiment of that link. This station will be a magnet for future STAR tenants and economic driver for Newark and the State of Delaware. We look forward to seeing passengers disembark here en route to one of the hundreds of new jobs to be located on STAR Campus. The new station will bring benefits to the whole community, including our students.”

    “This is a gateway project. This is a project that is going to unlock the potential of the STAR campus and is going to make possible hundreds of thousands of peoples’ lives being improved, by better jobs, by better transportation, by cleaner air and by a stronger community,” Coons said.

    Governor Carney said providing this link will also help to keep educated and highly-skilled young people in the state. He explained a month ago, a team of UD graduate students presented a report to him laying out all the things the state needed to do to attract and keep millennials. Mass transportation was a big piece of that.

    “Along with good, fun places to be and to enjoy after work, was the fact that they weren’t all that interested in traveling around in cars. They wanted to live in urban areas, they wanted to be able to get to their job sites by commuter trains and buses and the like. And so when you think of the potential of this site and the connection with this train center behind me, it’s a great marriage and it addresses one of the things that most important to the young people that are graduating from college today and those that are in the workforce,” Carney said.

    The project is expected to be complete in 2021.

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