St. Cloud Amtrak station getting overdue upgrades

The St. Cloud Amtrak station is investing $1.3 million into renovations that will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed in 1990.

“Amtrak was given a special provision to get 20 years to make changes to all their stations. They were given 20 years because it was understood it would be complicated,” said Kenneth Shiotani, senior staff attorney at the National Disability Rights Network.

A group of Amtrak officials, led by Senior Vice President Joe McHugh, have been traveling to different stations across the country informing local citizens of the renovations to come that will make the station more accessible, primarily to those with disabilities.

The discussion took place inside the St. Cloud Amtrak Station located at 555 E. St. Germain where construction was currently underway to replace the walkway connecting the parking lot and front entrance. Other areas that will be improved include the bathrooms, moving the handicap parking spots closer, having easy access to the front and rear doors, tearing down the razor wire fencing to add closer general parking, as well as covering the ticket window as sales move online and to the in-station kiosk.

“These renovations will really benefit everyone, like the new roof we put in that was necessary but not part of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Marty Soholt, an Amtrak district station manager who oversees a 1,000 mile radius that includes St. Cloud.

Amtrak states that by the end of 2015 work will be substantially complete at 31 of the 500 stations they serve. Amtrak is the sole owner of 129 stations nationwide, they are partially or solely responsible for making renovations at 365 different stations, and currently have plans to be done with work on 195 of those stations by the end of 2020.

“Mixed ownership of many stations has made this tough. The excuse period is over though and it’s time to do some work,” McHugh said. “We’re trying to find more uses and more people who can use the station, trying to make it nice enough so we can re-purpose the station for other events.

Shiotani said Amtrak waited until the last minute to ask for help on this projected seven-year project, but that it’s great to see some actual construction underway. Ridership of the train has been relatively stagnant in recent years, but McHugh believes the increased accessibility, along with the improving timeliness of trains will increase Amtrak’s overall ridership, which currently stands at 32 million passengers a year.

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