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For more than 40 years after it opened in 1914, Rochester's Bragdon Station ranked among the nation's grand railroad stations. But competition from automobiles and airlines caused the number of passengers to fall, and in 1965 the station was demolished.
No one has used the word "grand" to describe the Amtrak station that has served Rochester since 1978. Among its many shortcomings, the station is run down, lacks amenities and gives visitors a poor first impression of the city.
At long last, that's going to change. After decades of discussion and debate, a new intermodal transportation facility serving Amtrak trains and interstate buses will rise on Central Avenue.
The agreement announced this week calls for Amtrak to own and operate the $26.5 million train station. The federal government is providing $15 million for the project, with the state and city supplying additional funding.
The design has not been finalized, but the idea is to draw on Rochester's rich heritage-especially renowned architect Claude Bragdon's station.
Above all, a train station exists to serve the people who pass through its doors. The new intermodal transportation center promises to be a safe, accessible, passenger-friendly facility with much-improved operational efficiencies.
In addition, a station is a gateway to the surrounding city and region. There's every reason to believe the new facility will make a positive statement about the area's quality of life.
Finally, the new Rochester station is expected to spur economic development in the city's northeastern quadrant and boost downtown revitalization. Shuttles will connect it to the new Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority transit center on St. Paul Street.
As recently as five years ago, fewer than 75,000 passengers boarded or disembarked from trains annually at Rochester's Amtrak station. In the year ended Sept. 30, however, it served more than 144,000 passengers-and, driven by economic and environmental factors, the number is likely to grow sharply over the next decade.
Rail travel has a proud place in Rochester's history. With construction of the new station, it could earn an important place in the city's future as well.
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