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Friday, August 07, 2009

Chico, Calif., train depot will be getting improvements

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The historic train depot at West Fifth and Orange streets in Chico, Calif., will see a pair of improvements due to federal and local projects, the Chico Enterprise Record reports.

Amtrak will use $509,000 in federal stimulus dollars to build a 550-foot concrete platform along the railroad tracks. The city of Chico is planning to use up to $150,000 in city transportation funds to rebuild the wooden deck that runs around the northern part of the depot building.


The eight-inch-tall platform will replace an asphalt pad in front of the tracks. The new platform will be longer than the pad, stretching across nearly two city blocks.


Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said the platform is part of the corporation's effort to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Amtrak is using a portion of its stimulus dollars to improve wheelchair accessibility at dozens of stations across the country, by rebuilding or repairing platforms, adding lifts or ramps, or improving walkways.


Graham said the costs for Chico's platform are in line with similar projects, noting the entire structure needs to be built.


"It's a pretty huge undertaking," she said.


At this time, Amtrak doesn't know when it will begin construction or how many workers it will use. Graham said the stimulus money needs to be spent by 2011 and Amtrak has a deadline of July 2010 for this phase of ADA improvements.


Amtrak's trains and many of its California buses are wheelchair accessible via ramps or lifts. However, Graham said the presence of ramps on trains doesn't negate the need for platform improvements.


The platform will be used by passengers riding the two Amtrak trains that stop in Chico during the night, one each heading to Los Angeles and Seattle. During the 2006-07 fiscal year, 6,935 people used Chico station for the train.


In a separate project, the city is planning to rebuild and repair the depot's deck. City facilities manager Kim Parks said the city's project wouldn’t conflict with Amtrak's. Parks said rebuilding the deck would rejuvenate the depot's appearance. He estimated the old deck is 15-18 years old.


"It's something that should help renew the look of the building," Kim said.


The city is using wood because of the historic nature of the 117-year-old landmark. Parks noted the wood has difficulty standing up to the elements. A drainage problem on the east side of the building also led to a dry rot problem.


Funding for the project, between $140,000 to $150,000, will come from the city's transportation fund. Parks said he was checking on the funding because of the tight budget. It is possible the city may delay rebuilding the deck on the building's western side.


If the funding is in place, Parks hopes to have the project done by the end of the year. He said rebuilding is necessary because of safety concerns.

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