Birmingham receives money for station modernization


BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (WIAT) – Improvements are coming to Birmingham Amtrak station after the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority received a federal grant this week.

The Southern Rail Commission has awarded Birmingham $ 250,000 which can be used to improve accessibility, improve ridership and expand economic opportunities associated with the station redevelopment.

“This is an effort to try and provide funds to help us clean up the area ahead of the World Games,” said Frank T. Martin, CEO of BJCTA.

An aging waiting area with graffiti is the first sight for passengers unloading from highways heading to New Orleans and Atlanta.

Martin said the grant money would help make a better first impression.

“Right now I can tell you visually that when they come down they see a rotten area, overgrown weeds,” Martin said.

With thousands of visitors expected for the World Games next summer, Martin believes many will come by train.

While Birmingham has invested heavily in the new Max transit center and intermodal facility, the passenger rail area could be given a facelift.

“You have this nice new $ 64 million facility and then you go through a tunnel to the passenger platform and it’s in bad shape,” said Birmingham City Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, who does also part of the city transport committee.

The station is currently using an old freight elevator to assist wheelchair passengers. Martin intends to use the money for the upgrades.

“We need to ensure over time that the installation complies with current ADA guidelines and we are working closely with Amtrak and CSX to achieve these goals,” said Martin.

Birmingham has joined three other cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to receive CBC grants.

“Birmingham is a transportation hub in the South, and we fully understand the vitality that investment in transit-oriented development can bring,” said SRC Secretary and Alabama Commissioner Stephen McNair. “The Birmingham project will create seamless connections for travelers between the long-distance passenger train and the local public transport service through its beautiful multimodal station.

Amtrak has announced plans to begin passenger rail service between Mobile and New Orleans in January 2022. Birmingham could benefit from future passenger rail expansions.

“Birmingham, being in the central part of the state, I think we will serve as a hub for trains going to Huntsville, or even some of those going further north as well as south,” said Valerie (Vicki ) Rivers, the former administrative director of BJCTA.

Martin credited Rivers for his work on the grant. The BJCTA said the grant money will be matched with about $ 300 million in state money.

The efforts of State Senators Jabo Wagoner and Rodger Smitherman were crucial in securing the money, Martin said.

BJCTA management said further improvements are planned for the future. City leaders recognize the transit hub as an economic engine and are optimistic about what happens further afield.

“They have a much bigger platform renovation that they would like to do and I think that $ 250,000 brings us closer to achieving that goal,” said O’Quinn.

Work could start soon, Martin said. He hopes most of the upgrades will be completed by summer 2022.

For more details on SRC grants, click here.

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James H. Wright

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