Renovated train shed envisioned as “wonderful gateway” to Richmond

The shell of the Main Street Station train shed could start to come off as early as this month as part of a renovation project that will transform the cavernous structure into an indoor market, tourism center and event space.

The renovation of the shed, which dates to 1901, is the third phase of an $86 million push to rehabilitate Main Street Station and establish the landmark building as a regional transportation hub — one that could eventually serve high-speed trains. The train-shed phase, estimated to cost $48.5 million, could be completed by the fall of 2016, according to city officials.

The hope is the train shed could function similar to Washington’s Eastern Market or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. The shed will have glass walls and will be lighted at night, giving it high visibility from nearby Interstate 95.

On a media tour of the site Thursday afternoon, Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones said he was excited by the possibilities for “a wonderful gateway to the city of Richmond.”

“Just driving by on Main Street, you can’t see it,” Jones said. “But when you get in here, you can see that a whole lot of progress is being made.”

The shed renovation, which contractor Taylor & Parrish Construction began in September, will also entail reopening Franklin Street to allow pedestrian and bicycle traffic to pass under the shed.

What will go in the 100,000 square feet in the revamped train shed is still somewhat unclear. The city recently launched an online survey seeking input on what the public wants to see in the space.

“The concept, we have,” said Jeannie Welliver, an official with the city’s Department of Economic and Community Development who’s spearheading the project. “The details we want from the people.”

Of the $86 million, $63.3 million came from the federal government, $18.1 million came from the state in conjunction with the Richmond Regional Transportation Planning Organization (previously the Metropolitan Planning Organization), and $4.6 million was contributed by the city, according to city documents.

The renovation project dates to the 2003 grand reopening of the train station, which currently serves four or five Amtrak trains per day.

The completion of the train shed project next year won’t automatically bring enhanced rail service, which will depend on decisions made by state and federal agencies. Officials are hoping to eventually link Richmond and Washington via a train line that would allow speeds of up to 90 mph.

A high-speed rail line is still likely a decade away, but officials said the implications for the city would be enormous.

“As the mayor says, it’s a game-changer,” said city planner Viktoria Badger. “It connects downtown Richmond to all the downtowns on the East Coast.”

In addition to train service, officials want to make Main Street Station a multi-modal hub for buses and bicycle traffic.

GRTC Pulse, the bus rapid transit system expected to be operational by October 2017, will feature a stop directly in front of Main Street Station, which will also be linked to the Virginia Capital Trail.

Copyright Richmond Times-Dispatch. Used by Permission.