Wichita Union Station

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Wichita Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:13 am

The possible move of the Southwest Chief onto the BNSF Transcon in 2016 has brought up the possibility of renewed Amtrak service at Wichita Union Station, which last saw service on October 6, 1979 after which the Lone Star an Amtrak train running between Chicago and Houston was permanently terminated.

The Wichita Eagle has a nice article detailing the history of the station:

In 1909, three depots stood in a one-block area on Douglas. There was the Rock Island, which still stands, as Prudential-Bache Securities at 711 E. Douglas; the Santa Fe, where Multimedia Cablevision and Cox Communications used to be housed, at 701 E. Douglas; and the Frisco, where The Wichita Eagle is, at 825 E. Douglas. That year, Charles Davidson ran a successful campaign for mayor by promising to start negotiations between the city and the railroads to see whether an overpass could be built that would allow trains to pass over Douglas and traffic to pass underneath. In 1910, the three railroads agreed to elevate their tracks from Kellogg past Second Street and construct an impressive station. Construction started in 1913, and the project was completed a year later. The result was Union Station. It featured a Fred Harvey Dining Room – considered state-of-the-art dining at the beginning of the 20th century. Harvey, a Kansan, developed a string of dining rooms in depots all along the Santa Fe railroad. Wichita’s Fred Harvey Dining Room in Union Station featured a semicircular, marble lunch counter and marble-topped tables. The morning sun shone through blue stained-glass windows. Union Station was a place for World War I and World War II troops to pass through, for friends and family to bid goodbyes and hearty hellos. By the 1960s, when the popularity of air traffic had increased, Wichita’s passenger service began to wane. On Oct. 6, 1979, the last passenger train, Train No. 16 of the Lone Star Amtrak, left Wichita.


At least one redevelopment effort has already fallen through but the building appear marketable due to its sound structural condition. Here is the Wichita Eagle's coverage from 2012, updated in 2013.

It is the iconic piece of real estate in the drive to revitalize Wichita’s downtown: a historic train station that once was the front door to a growing city. Yet five years after Union Station went on the market at 701 E. Douglas, the ornate, cavernous train station and its 110,000- square-foot campus remains unsold. It’s a potential-filled – yet costly – project that could tie Old Town and Intrust Bank Arena together, or keep them apart if developers and city officials can’t work out a plan to revitalize the historic building. The building’s owners, Atlanta-based Cox Communications, say nothing has changed: The company remains committed to getting the century-old campus into the hands of a developer who will integrate it into the revival of the Douglas Avenue corridor. “We recognize that the building is an important piece of Wichita’s history,” Cox spokeswoman Sarah Kaufman said. “It’s our hope to pass it on to someone who will see its potential and develop it as a key piece of downtown moving forward.” But starting that momentum won’t be easy; the project will be costly – it currently is listed at more than $6.million – and it will likely require a long-term public-private partnership to be financially viable, developers say. But if that partnership can be forged, it might not be long until Union Station’s future is solidified, those developers say. “Frankly, I think the real opportunity and challenge for Union Station is its scale,” said David Dixon, the Boston-based consultant who led the planning for Project Downtown, the city’s comprehensive plan for downtown revitalization. “It offers a unique opportunity to create a vibrant mixed-use environment that could be highly competitive and significantly expand the market for downtown living and working.”


More recently local CBS affiliate KWCH-12 DT ran a story dicussing downtown revival in Wichita which very briefly mentioned plans for Wichita Union Station to become a "multi-million dollar destination attraction".

From shops and restaurants, to new places to live. Wichita's downtown area is seeing growth where it hasn't before. Plus more developments are in the works.On Tuesday, the Wichita City Council will see a 30+ page report on the progress of a 15-year revitalization plan for downtown. It breaks down how many people have moved in, how many jobs have been created and which projects are still in the works. The plan started in late 2010. New apartments are being built along the Arkansas river. The $10 million Waterwalk Apartment complex is set to open within months. A few blocks away, the Cargill Innovation Center is complete which brought 70 more jobs to Downtown Wichita. Plus smaller businesses, like "Espresso to Go Go", have moved in as well. "Being down here has been fantastic," said Owner Warren Tandoc. "I am hoping this summer we will see a lot of business coming from events and things going on at Intrust." "We're approaching $291 million that has been invested and the lion share of that has been the private sector," said Wichita Downtown Development Corporation President Jeff Fluhr.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby Station Aficionado » Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:22 am

Wichita is lucky that their Union Station was an early example of adaptive reuse. It was used by some business for a number of years after Amtrak ceased service.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Fri Jun 13, 2014 7:26 am

Another notable development the submission of a TIGER program grant application by the City of Wichita to enable the extension of the Heartland Flyer to Wichita. This is not the first time Wichita has applied for TIGER funds related to this proposal.

The Wichita Eagle has coverage here.

City officials plan to apply again this week for a federal grant to bring passenger rail service back to Wichita. The city seeks up to $3 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant funds to complete environmental studies on the Heartland Flyer route connecting Wichita with Oklahoma City down the I-35 corridor. When those studies are complete, the passenger rail service project will be “shovel-ready,” City Council member Pete Meitzner said. The plan would connect the Heartland Flyer with the Southwest Chief line and close a 185-mile service gap from Oklahoma City to Wichita. The city, which was turned down in September in its first bid for federal transportation money, is better prepared this time, Meitzner said. The application will include letters of support from along the route, including from Arkansas City; Newton; Ponca City, Okla.; and Perry, Okla. Wichita and Kansas are part of a six-state consortium studying passenger rail expansion in the South and the Great Plains. In addition, the mayors of Wichita, Oklahoma City and Kansas City have a joint letter of cooperation to extend the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City through Wichita to Kansas City. Federal officials have told the city its chances are better the second time around for the grant money. “We did a review with federal transportation and TIGER officials on our last application,” Meitzner said. “We wanted to know what we could do to improve the last one.” Meitzner said federal officials said the first application was good but that Wichita wanted planning funds, not project funds. The 2013 TIGER program had no planning funds; this time around, $35 million of the $550 million in grants is designated for planning. “It was a great quality application,” he said. “The problem was there was no money in the TIGER grant for planning.” Meitzner said the study is estimated to cost between $4.5 million and $5.5 million. Oklahoma transportation officials have not signed on – despite the support of their communities along the route – as they weigh a proposal to run the Heartland Flyer through Tulsa instead.


The letter from the Wichita Economic Development Corporation supporting the grant also has substantial additional detail and specifies Wichita Union Station as the service terminal.

Interestingly enough Oklahoma officials did end up backing the application as reported by multiple outlets:

Mass Transit Magazine:

[Source: Wichita Eagle]April 29--Wichita's plan to return passenger rail to the city and Kansas has gained a major endorsement. Officials from the Kansas Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation released a joint statement of support Tuesday morning for bringing the Heartland Flyer north up the I-35 corridor through Wichita and Newton. The city seeks up to $3 million in grant funds to complete environmental studies on the Heartland Flyer route connecting Wichita with Oklahoma City down the I-35 corridor. The plan would connect the Heartland Flyer with the Southwest Chief line and close a 185-mile service gap from Oklahoma City to Wichita. The statement endorses the city's application -- to be made this week -- for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant funding to complete planning for the project. "The departments of transportation in Kansas and Oklahoma are pleased to support the efforts of the city of Wichita, who has applied for a TIGER planning grant to conduct environmental reviews for a potential extension of the Heartland Flyer passenger rail service from Oklahoma City north to Newton, Kansas," the statement reads.

"This work is the next step toward efforts to extend the Heartland Flyer passenger rail service that currently operates between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. Once implemented, the extended passenger rail service and the improvements to the rail line would provide improved transportation access for businesses and citizens, create numerous economic development opportunities throughout the corridor, and improve the efficiency and reliability of freight movement on the rail line. The extension would close a 200-mile gap in passenger rail service that will connect important economic hubs including Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City and Chicago." The joint statement is one of the biggest pieces of support yet for the Heartland Flyer project, said council member Pete Meitzner, who leads the city's efforts to restore train service. "This is a significant addition by far to the TIGER grant process," Meitzner said. "Having the departments of transportation in both states publicly supporting this effort is greatly appreciated." The planning study, focusing on the environmental impacts of routing the Heartland Flyer north from Oklahoma City, is the final step toward a "shovel-ready" project to bring rail service to Wichita.


Railway Age:

Oklahoma's senior U.S. Senator, James Inhofe, has endorsed a proposal to extend Amtrak's Heartland Flyer north of Oklahoma City into Kansas, to connect with Amtrak's long-distance Southwest Chief. The Heartland Flyer currently links Oklahoma City with Fort Worth, Tex., with funding from Oklahoma and Texas aiding the service. The Heartland Flyer, which began service in 1999, is jointly sponsored by the Oklahoma and Texas transportation departments. According to the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), Inhofe, in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, endorsed a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant application submitted by the City of Wichita to extend the Heartland Flyer to that city. "Once fully operational, the Heartland Flyer extension will provide improved transportation access for businesses and citizens, create the prospect for economic development, and increase the productivity and dependability of freight movement across a significant region," Inhofe wrote. "For smaller communities that will have stops along the line, the extension of the Heartland Flyer would positively impact citizen mobility and connectivity to medical services, educational and employment opportunities, as well as connections to other transportation modes in Wichita and Oklahoma City. In recognition of these opportunities, the States of Oklahoma and Kansas are fully committed to the extension." Inhofe's endorsement followed a direct request for same from NARP Council Member Gary Lanman, NARP noted. The move runs somewhat counter to Inhofe's reputation as a perennial Amtrak critic. As recently as this year, Sen. Inhofe, while offering support for a renewed federal transportation funding program, observed, "Among my initial concerns is the inclusion of Amtrak and the TIGER grant program into the Highway Trust Fund that will further diminish scarce transportation dollars without paying a single cent into the program."
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby Matt Johnson » Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:23 pm

gokeefe wrote:Another notable development the submission of a TIGER program grant application by the City of Wichita to enable the extension of the Heartland Flyer to Wichita.


Seems a little out of the way for the Heartland Flyer!
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:46 pm

Indeed. Some of the materials reference it as a separate train named the Northern Flyer.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby Rockingham Racer » Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:54 pm

I don't see how it's out of the way. It's a pretty straight shot from OKC on the BNSF up to Wichita, via the Red Rock and Arkansas City Subs, the latter of which the city of Wichita is on. A few miles further you're up in Newton, where there seem to be good facilities to service a train, were it to terminate there instead of continuing to Kansas City [a different proposal]. All of this was studied in 2010 by BNSF, Amtrak, and the states of OK and KS. I just hope they don't decide to do another study.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Fri Jun 13, 2014 12:57 pm

Rockingham Racer wrote:All of this was studied in 2010 by BNSF, Amtrak, and the states of OK and KS. I just hope they don't decide to do another study.


The TIGER grant is seeking planning funds. Not sure if this is related to engineering and environmental or not. I think they've already concluded the service extension is feasible (within whatever constraints they assumed).
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby Matt Johnson » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:13 pm

Rockingham Racer wrote:I don't see how it's out of the way. It's a pretty straight shot from OKC on the BNSF up to Wichita, via the Red Rock and Arkansas City Subs, the latter of which the city of Wichita is on. A few miles further you're up in Newton, where there seem to be good facilities to service a train, were it to terminate there instead of continuing to Kansas City [a different proposal]. All of this was studied in 2010 by BNSF, Amtrak, and the states of OK and KS. I just hope they don't decide to do another study.


Ok, well yeah, out of the way if they want to serve Kansas City too which is what I thought the plan was.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby Rockingham Racer » Fri Jun 13, 2014 1:15 pm

"Planning funds?" Is that different from funds for the study they have already done? It would seem to me that the 2010 feasability study is part of "planning".
Let's get the money and get to it! :P
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby Backshophoss » Sat Jun 14, 2014 12:42 am

IF #3+#4 get rerouted,have the Flyer terminate at Wichta,since the Chief would stop there,
if #3+#4 stay put,then try to get the Flyer to Newton.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Jun 14, 2014 8:11 am

Does anyone know if Wichita has room to turn a train--i.e., store it, turn it, etc. If not, I think a Newton terminus would be in order.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Sat Nov 29, 2014 6:49 pm

Groundbreaking on $54,000,000 mixed use redevelopment scheduled for December 11th.

More from the Wichita Eagle.

The owner of Union Station said it will host a ceremony next month to mark the start of its $54 million renovation and expansion.

Occidental Management is planning the event for 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at 701 E. Douglas.

Occidental CEO Gary Oborny, who first announced his plans for the historic downtown property in August, said Wednesday that the groundbreaking will kick off work on the first phase of the two-phase project that is expected to last up to 21/2 years.

“We’re looking forward to not just a groundbreaking but kind of a community celebration,” Oborny said, adding that this year Union Station turns 100.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Sun Nov 27, 2016 4:46 pm

Even though Amtrak doesn't appear to have any immediate prospects for future service at Wichita Union Station the location continues to develop in ways that will likely make it a very attractive future site for a station if and/or when things change ...

From the Wichita Eagle:

The Kitchen will launch a “soft opening” on Monday.

But unlike some restaurant owners, Natasha Gandhi-Rue is inviting anyone to come – as long as they understand that soft openings are intended for new businesses to work out the kinks and for staff members to learn their jobs.

“We’re open, but we’re in training,” she said. “We want your feedback.”

Gandhi-Rue is opening her restaurant at 725 E. Douglas in the space that held the original Tanya’s Soup Kitchen. It will have an open-concept kitchen and will serve seasonal, farm-to-table dishes.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby John_Perkowski » Tue Nov 29, 2016 12:16 pm

Since we are talking about Kansas, let me throw some cold water on all y'all...

1) In the 2009 HSR push, Kansas did apply for a Flyer extension to Newton ... at 79MPH. The app didn't even meet the specifications for the request for grants. There were 8 dollars in requests chasing each dollar of grant money. Kansas ... didn't get the grant.

2) The advocacy alliance to make the Flyer happen had its head where the sun does not shine. They had the Kansas Senate sewn up. They never really worked the Kansas House.

3) Governor Brownback is not what you call passenger rail friendly. He leaves office in early 19. I'd not count on anything being done anytime soon.
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Re: Wichita Union Station

Postby gokeefe » Wed Sep 27, 2017 8:24 pm

Still continuing to consider an extension of the Heartland Flyer.

Officials from Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas are continuing talks with Amtrak on the possibility of expanding passenger train service from Oklahoma City into the Wichita area.

Wichita city council members Pete Meitzner and James Clendenin attended a hearing in Oklahoma City on Wednesday to talk about an ongoing study of passenger service. Elected officials from Texas and Oklahoma and Amtrak officials also attended the hearing before the Oklahoma Transportation Committee.

Meitzner told KFDI News that passenger numbers appear to have peaked for the Heartland Flyer route, which runs from Fort Worth, Texas to Oklahoma City, and that is leading Amtrak officials to look at expanding the route. Meitzner said Amtrak is reporting an increase in riders who are using charter bus service to access the Southwest Chief service in Newton and the Heartland Flyer route in Oklahoma City.
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