Archive of Prominent Section 106 Cases:
Connecticut: Amtrak Operations at the New London Train Station
In late March, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) notified the Council that Amtrak no longer proposes to relocate their passenger facility in New London, Connecticut, from its current location in an historic railroad station to a new facility. A pedestrian walkway to connect the parking garage, existing station, Amtrak platforms, and the nearby Cross Sound Ferry is proposed instead. The Council will participate in a meeting in May to examine the conceptual design.
The Council was first contacted in 1997 regarding Amtrakís proposal to construct a new train station in New London. The existing station, designed by noted architect H.H. Richardson in the 1890s, is listed individually on the National Register and is also an anchor of the New London Historic District. FRA, which is providing financial assistance to Amtrak, initiated review under Section 106, requesting comments on the compatibility of the design of the proposed new facility. The Council and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) subsequently maintained that other alternatives, specifically rehabilitation of the historic station, would have to be considered before discussion of design for any new construction.
Surprised by the opposition to its proposal, Amtrak argued that since it only leased the station, it could not expend the substantial funds necessary to upgrade the facility and accommodate the influx of passengers expected with new high speed rail service. Amtrak also cited concerns for passenger safety at street and rail crossings and convenience to the town parking garage as reasons for needing a new facility. In contrast, the stationís owner, who had purchased the building in the 1970s to prevent its demolition and who subsequently renovated the space as an early tax act project, was committed to having the station remain in its historic home. He has persisted in exploring creative solutions to accommodate the safety and accessibility issues raised by Amtrak.
While adaptive use of historic buildings is a highly successful preservation technique, continuing the historic use of a building is often the preferable approach. This frequently is the case with key community institutions, such as post offices, government buildings, and transportation facilities such as train stations. This case demonstrates how the Section 106 process provides a mechanism for fully exploring such issues as a part of Federal decision making.
Staff contact: MaryAnn Naber
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