Raleigh City Council members got a first look at plans for a new transportation center that officials hope will make the Triangle the "Gateway to the South."
The proposed Raleigh Union Station would combine centers for busses, light-rail, high speed and commuter trains.
"[The station] will be a grand hall," Planning Director Mitchell Silver said. "A gateway to the south."
It will cost an estimated $212 million to build, but city leaders are asking the federal government to fund 80 percent of it.
The remaining 20 percent would be split between the state and the city, bringing Raleigh's share of the project to roughly $20 million.
Even if the city gets the funding, officials said there are property rights that need to be sorted out.
"It's not owned by the city," Silver said. "It's owned by Triangle Transit so a lot of things have to occur. We have to work in agreement with Triangle Transit and then we have to hire designers to start building the facility.
"It could take five to ten years to build."
The city will host a public comment meeting on May 12 at the Urban Design Center.
Click here to see the plan on the city's planning Web site.
Silver said it's the hardest project he's ever worked on.
The facility would be comparable in size to Raleigh-Durham International Airport and built immediately West of downtown Raleigh.
Instead of planes, people would catch busses and trains for local and cross-country trips.
"You do want a station for high speed[rail]," Silver said. "Amtrak is growing and if you notice from the presentation, the facilities are small.
"The transportation is coming. The question is what type of facility will we house?"
The station would be centered in two buildings at the intersection of West Hargett and North West.
City leaders have planned specific uses for each building, but the specific architecture has not been designed.
"This is a long-term problem and a long term solution is required," Councilman Bonner Gaylord said. "The more quickly we move on it, the more effective that solution will be."
In a time budget slashing, some council members said spending the city's share of about $20 million on something that isn't need right now can be a hard sell.
"We have to do a great job of getting people involved," Councilman James West said. "I think that's the next step."
If Raleigh does follow through with the project, Mayor Charles Meeker said it could bring the city full circle.
"Raleigh was built as a rail town and much of our early growth occurred then," Meeker said. "That was the 19th century and much of our growth during the 21st century may also be based on rail."
That means Raleigh Union Station could also connect the city's past with it's future.
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