07/17/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/17/2017 16:44
Article by Peter BothumPhotos by Kathy F. AtkinsonJuly 17, 2017
In the past, University of Delaware students, parents, alumni and staff have had to answer any question about Newark's train station with caveats.
Yes, you could catch a train there, but parking was a challenge, and it wasn't easy to board trains, and using the word 'station' was more than a stretch when describing a structure without bathrooms or a waiting area.
Those qualifications will no longer be necessary with construction of the Newark Regional Transportation Center, a $50 million project that kicked off Monday, July 17, with a groundbreaking ceremony held next to the tracks in the train station's parking lot.
UD and its partners expect the transportation center to draw more riders and serve as an anchor for the 272-acre Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.
Once completed, the improved station will boast expanded parking, a high-level platform that is Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, a pedestrian overpass and a station building with bathrooms.
'Our vision for the STAR Campus as an exciting hub of research, innovation and learning is becoming a reality, and this transportation center is a transformational step in that development,' said UD President Dennis Assanis. 'By strengthening this connection with our community, we are creating a more prosperous future for our state and our entire region.'
Roughly 100 people braved the heat as Delaware Gov. John Carney, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester hailed the project as a catalyst for economic development and job growth.
Carney said adding a new transportation center will enhance what he called the best combination of economic development assets in the state - tech companies and research at STAR and a job generator up the road on UD's central campus.
The project will facilitate increased future Amtrak and passenger train service, as well as provide the future opportunity for additional SEPTA/MARC commuter rail service, while maintaining or improving existing freight operations.
It could be the catalyst for expansion of service southbound to Perryville, Maryland, providing businesses and commuters with another option for reaching Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Carney said.
'When you think about 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's most important to the young people that are graduating from college today and heading into the workforce,' Carney said.
'It is one of the real opportunities that we have here in our state to help businesses create more jobs and to keep students graduating from the University of Delaware right here.'
Blunt Rochester, who earned a master's degree in urban affairs and public policy from UD, said that as a proud Blue Hen the train station has always been synonymous with Newark and the beauty of the city.
'I'm happy to be here for the groundbreaking, but I'm more excited to come back for the ribbon cutting and be able to jump on this train and hopefully go to Washington,' she said. 'To me what this represents is really like a phoenix. The ashes of a plant have now spawned a STAR Campus.'
Funding for the project comes from the federal government, the state of Delaware, SEPTA, UD, the city of Newark, New Castle County and the Wilmington Area Planning Council. Amtrak and rail freight carrier Norfolk Southern coordinated in planning.
The project is partially funded by a $10 million TIGER IV Grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Other funding sources include UD, the TTF, federal funds, city of Newark, WILMAPCO and New Castle County.
The initial phase will include construction of a surface parking lot, access road and related improvements.
UD Executive Vice President Alan Brangman told those assembled Monday that the new station will help the STAR Campus better take advantage of its position in the heart of the Northeast corridor.
'We are equidistant to New York City, which is the financial capital of the world, and Washington, D.C., which is the political capital of the world,' he said. 'As far as I'm concerned, we are in the center of the world.'