A project to improve customer access and comfort at Rugby Amtrak Depot has worried some residents, according to former Rugby Mayor Dale Niewoehner.
“I know some people who are upset that (Amtrak) is destroying the old platform.” said Niewohner. “You’re sad it’s over.”
“However,” he added, “All of this work appears to mean that Rugby will continue to be served with Amtrak service for years to come and that Rugby is fortunate to have Amtrak service in our community.”
A local business owner and longtime advocate for Amtrak’s presence in the community, Niewoehner has been involved in community causes for decades. He is a member of Rugby Lions Club, which has helped run the depot in the past.
The remodeling project involves removing the 115-year-old structure’s brick platform and replacing it with a platform that complies with the Federal Act for Americans with Disabilities, known as ADA.
ADA requires facilities to make changes to allow people with disabilities the same access to them as people without disabilities.
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the rugby depot’s aging brick platform has created an uneven surface that doesn’t conform with steps on trains, making boarding difficult for those in wheelchairs or those with walking sticks.
Explaining the improvements, Magliari said: “We have a $2.6 million project at the station to create an ADA-compliant welcome platform for all of our customers.”
“The platform has to be the right height to fit the train,” Added Magliari. “Also, the platform needs to be slightly chamfered along the side of the track so that people with objects like sticks can see that they are reaching the end of the platform. And of course it has to be properly lit. Those are the highlights of the project.”
Other improvements to the Rugby depot include heating facilities on the platform and air conditioning to be installed in the building.
Grand Forks subcontractor CL Linfoot installed the air conditioning. Michael Sparks of Stations Michael Sparks of Amtrak’s Philadelphia office is leading the project as lead engineer. California-based Granite Construction is installing the platform.
Originally built for the Great Northern Railroad in 1907, the depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The placement followed a remodeling project spearheaded by local organizations including Rugby Lions Club in the late 1980s “Major American Broadcasters” a website created by Amtrak.
Niewoehner expressed disappointment that the depot’s status on the registry appeared not to have been considered by Amtrak when deciding to make the platform ADA-compliant.
However, Magliari said, “It has to be ADA compliant. Such is the law.”
He said the figures, which track ridership for people with disabilities, showed 14,091 people “identify as disabled” traveled with the empire builder in 2019 what he said “Increase of 14.8% compared to the previous year.”
As work began on the platform, crews removed the old bricks, damaging many of them. The bricks bear the name of the Minnesota Ceramic Company, a manufacturer from days gone by.
Niewoehner said the Prairie Village Museum offered to take over the bricks removed from the old platform.
He also raised concerns about the impact the new platform would have on drainage into the city of Rugby’s storm and sewage system.
Rugby City Auditor Jennifer Stewart said she had not been in contact with anyone from the construction company responsible for the project about the potential impact of the new platform on the city’s storm drains.
According to the city’s 2014 Comprehensive Plan, Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke said: “The city has more than enough capacity to handle the drainage.”
Steinke said low water levels in the city’s lagoons, which catch Rugby’s runoff, are harming the city “more than enough capacity for this drain with no worries.”
According to Steinke, the low water level in the lagoons is the result of several years of drought.
Magliari said the project should be complete by June.