Minot Amtrak Depot back in business

When the Amtrak passenger train pulled into Minot Tuesday night, it was the first time the depot’s main waiting room and ticket office were used since just prior to the 2011 Souris River flood.

Since November 2011, a temporary waiting room and ticket office have been operating in the west end of the depot.

“We’re done using the baggage room as a ticket office,” said Marc Magliari, Amtrak media relations manager in Chicago who was in Minot Tuesday for a news conference in the depot.

“Technicians and other people are here working through the day so tonight (Tuesday) we’ll be back serving passengers in the proper place in the proper waiting room,” Magliari said.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder, the train that goes through Minot, is the most popular overnight train operating daily between Chicago and all the way to Seattle, Magliari said.

“This is an important stop on the Empire Builder route, and it was heartbreaking to us at Amtrak when the flood came, after everything the community had done to turn the station into a showcase here in this part of North Dakota,” Magliari said.

“Those of you who do not recall, the station had been modernized and ‘stuccolized’ and was sort of this beigy-yellow thing setting here next to the tracks,” and it was OK for passengers, he said.

“But once the town engaged and took ownership of the station, like so many communities are doing around the country, and did what they did to beautify and demodernize, and make the station more historically accurate and attractive, it was heartbreaking to us both at Amtrak in Chicago and the corporate headquarters in Washington,” Magliari said of the floodwater being inside the building.

Magliari said it wasn’t a real tough call for Amtrak officials when the time came to decide what to do about the flooded building.

He said Amtrak spent upwards of $500,000 putting the station back to the same great-looking building it was. For example, he said the identical tile was installed in the building. He said there’s still a little more money to be spent on work there.

“We’re happy to tell the folks in this part of North Dakota, folks across the border in Canada, folks from miles around who drive to Minot to hop aboard our trains that we are back in business in the main waiting room,” Magliari said.

He said there will be a celebration at the depot on May 11, National Train Day, with an open house and refreshments, and a chance for people to come back and see what’s been done at the depot. “The goal was to get this done by National Train Day” he added.

“We’re so very grateful of the patience of the community which certainly knew what happened on that summer flood that did so much damage here that we were one of the victims, we’re also one of the those recovering, and we’re happy to say we’re back in business in the main waiting room.

“We have a goal of by May 11 of restoring checked baggage service so sportsmen and other people who are traveling to and from this part of North Dakota again can have the checked baggage service,” Magliari said.

“We’re happy to say thank you for your patience and we’re happy to say we’re back in business where we should be in a glorious station in a lovely room and thanks for waiting for us to get this done,” he added.

David Waind, Minot city manager, said from a city standpoint the Amtrak Depot is very important.

He said when the depot was renovated before the flood, it had been a long process of getting the funding in place. He said the exterior was completed in 2008 and the interior in 2010.

“Six months later, we had the water and we had the devastation of the flood,” Waind said.

He said this is such a big step for the community to have the facility back in operation.

“We’re so thankful to Amtrak for all the effort you have given to us in getting it back in place. We look forward to the ribbon cutting and unveiling, and excited about the opportunity to serve and continuing to serve the public through the operation of the depot,” Waind said.

Magliari pointed out that local contractors did the work at the depot. R&K Contractors Inc. in Minot is the general contractor for the project, the same contractor that did the restoration project before the flood.

He said the temporary ticket office, at the west end of the building, will be demolished and turned back into the baggage room. “Our goal is to have that done by May 11,” he said.

“Minot is blessed with two historic depots. Not every town has that and not every town has actual Amtrak service at their historic station. This community does, and I think it’s a great new front door… in Minot because it really represents how important historically and going forward rail service is,” Magliari said.

The other historic station is the former Soo Line passenger depot on North Main.

“Amtrak ridership is up. We’re probably going to break another record that will be 10 years of Amtrak records of Amtrak ridership, and this is our most popular train,” he added.

In regard to the platform repairs, Magliari said there are discussions under way about it. He said the federal government spent more than 10 years developing rules for how high a platform needs to be next to the tracks. He said the rules are done but implementing those rules will take more time and it differs in different parts of the country depending on if there is freight traffic next to a station.

“We very much want to make that platform ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) compliant the way the station is ADA compliant,” he said.

He said they also want improvements to the parking lot and the road. “We appreciate The (Minot) Daily News’ pursuit of that issue,” he added.