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(rshsdepot) Berkeley, CA

Renovations Get on Track For Berkeley Amtrak Station

Daily Cal Staff Writer
Friday, February 21, 2003

The Berkeley City Council approved renovations to the desolate West Berkeley
Amtrak stop Tuesday, setting aside plans for a full-service train station

The upgrade will add a platform and better lighting to the dim outdoor
waiting stop under the I-80 freeway overpass.

State and federal grants, and the city's Redevelopment Agency will fund the
$1.7 million project.

"It's something that is long overdue," said Councilmember Miriam Hawley. "It
feels neglected, and you wonder if it is really a train station."

Renovations will bring the station in compliance with federal disability

It is not possible for disabled patrons to use the station now, said
Councilmember Dona Spring.

Construction is set to begin by September, although a few agreements with
Caltrans and Union Pacific need final approval.

City officials said they hope the upgrade will attract more visitors from as
far as Sacramento and San Jose to Berkeley's upscale Fourth Street shopping

City officials said the station is one of the most run-down in California.

The stop is one of only a few along the Capital Corridor train line that do
not have an indoor waiting station.

About 200 people use the stop daily, but riders cannot purchase tickets in
advance. Amtrak plans to install an electronic timetable there this summer.

Passengers at Berkeley's only train stop complain they feel unsafe.

People vandalize the stop on a regular basis, said Mike Albanese, project
manager for Amtrak.

"I wish they'd have a real station where you can buy tickets," said UC Davis
English professor John Boe, who uses Amtrak four times a week. "I'm all for
renovation, but Berkeley has the worst train station on the line."

Although the stop sits next to the closed-down Southern Pacific Railroad
building, the city is still looking for approximately $2 to $3 million to
purchase the building and adjacent restaurant.

Last year, the City Council and former Mayor Shirley Dean made a push to
purchase the old building.

With this year's city budget crisis, finding the funds will be difficult,
said Iris Starr, city redevelopment coordinator.

Amtrak officials will not service a station because there are not enough
riders to merit the investment, Starr said.

City officials said they will continue negotiations with the old station's

"The train project is a real push while we still have capital money to do
it," Starr said.

City officials may set up some businesses inside the building to cover the

The plan went through a long hearing and environmental review because the
project is near an Ohlone Indian archeological site.

As a compromise, builders will only dig two feet underground, supervised by
an archeologist.

Despite the piecemeal renovations, city officials have grand plans for the

The West Berkeley Project Area Commission plans to build a promenade
connecting Fourth Street and the pedestrian overpass to the Marina through
the West Berkeley Amtrak stop.

"It will be difficult to make an area under a freeway a pleasant place,"
said John McBride, who sits on the commission.

Emma Schwartz covers city government. E-mail her at citygov_@_dailycal.org.

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org


End of RSHSDepot Digest V1 #602

The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org