Thursday, August 14, 2014

Idaho's Lone Amtrak Station Undergoing Renovation

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 3:16 PM

click to enlarge The Sandpoint train station, built in 1906, is the only Amtrak stop in Idaho. - ARIC SPENCE
  • Aric Spence
  • The Sandpoint train station, built in 1906, is the only Amtrak stop in Idaho.

For 98 years, passengers have shuttled east and west through the train station in Sandpoint—including President Theodore Roosevelt in 1911 during a stop recommended by Idaho Senator William Borah.

Since 1997, when the Pioneer Route was discontinued in Southern Idaho, the Sandpoint station has been the only passenger rail stop in the state served by Amtrak, but the Gothic-style brick station—added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973—has not weathered the years well.

The building was closed to the public in 2009 after leaks were discovered in its roof. Since then, Amtrak passengers have had to wait on the open-air platform into the wee hours and often in cold, wet conditions.

After years of preservation efforts, that is about to change. The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that after negotiations between the city of Sandpoint, station owner Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway and Amtrak, work will begin this summer to renovate and reopen the depot.

Bid to Sandpoint contractor Idagon, the project is funded through about $1 million given to BNSF by the Idaho Transportation Department for stabilization of the station—part of a deal struck during construction of the 2-mile-long Sand Creek Byway, which moved U.S. 95 from downtown Sandpoint to a route next to the building. The funds were transferred to Amtrak, which is in charge of the project.

"The project is a ‘rehabilitation,’ which means we will be bringing the building up to today’s standards regarding HVAC, ADA, etc.," Idagon owner Justin Schuck told Boise Weekly in an email. 

The company will begin by removing toxic materials like asbestos from the building. From there, Idagon will replace the multiple layers of roofing with a style close to what might have been used when the station was first constructed. Matching colors as closely as possible to historic hues, Schuck said roof work will be followed by repairing and "rescuing" the brick, inside and out, and retrofitting the existing bathrooms and communications room for conversion into a waiting room and unisex ADA bathroom.

"The key components of this rehabilitation are keeping the textures/colors/feeling of the building as it was originally designed while incorporating new and more efficient techniques, materials and fixtures," Schuck wrote, adding that Idagon has enlisted the help of a brick specialist and an expert in building rehabilitation with experience in the Seattle area.

Aside from the roofing changes, the Art Deco font on the current sign—installed in the 1950s—will be replaced with the original Gothic font.

"We are bringing her back to the visual appearance as it did for its grand opening," Schuck wrote.

Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan said renovating the depot not only adds to the city's transportation mix, but preserves an important part of its history.

"The depot is the last standing building of the original town, which was on the east side of Sand Creek; every other reference to that town has been demolished either by man or the elements (mostly man!)," she said. "The rehab is the right thing to do and everyone benefits."  

According to Schuck, work could be completed—and the station reopened—by the end of the year.

UPDATE, 9 a.m., Aug. 15: Clarifies funding and adds comments from Sandpoint Mayor Carrie Logan.

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