Amtrak will invest more than $4.4 million toward the new Waterloo Train Station in DeKalb County.
The town has also received a grant of more than $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the new station.
According to Amtrak records, the Waterloo station had the fourth-highest ridership of Indiana stations, with 22,662 passengers last year. The town ranked behind the larger cities of Indianapolis with 34,265 passengers, Lafayette with 26,827 and South Bend with 23,662.
The Waterloo station is served by Amtrak’s Capitol Limited from Chicago to Washington, D.C., and the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to New York City and Boston, with daily trains in both directions.
The scope of the project has changed over the past eight years, because of Amtrak’s involvement and Norfolk Southern railway’s request to include two passenger boarding platforms west of Center Street, Waterloo Town Manager DeWayne Nodine said.
The revised plan also includes a new passenger building east of Center Street between the railroad and West Van Vleek Street, he said.
Currently, passengers must wait in a small Plexiglas shelter in the parking lot, exposed to the weather. A portable toilet suffices as a restroom. The train often has to stop twice to load and unload for lack of space.
The new building will include a restroom and will be heated and air-conditioned, Nodine said.
Many aspects of the original plan will stay, including lighting, signage, handicap-accessible ramps and walkways and additional parking.
The primary parking area will be across from the town park along West Van Vleek Street as originally planned. A much smaller drop-off parking area will be next to the eastbound platform along West Railroad Street.
The Waterloo Train Station improvements project will complete an eight-year community effort of providing more than a bus stop’ shelter for waiting passengers, Nodine said.
There are no plans to change the level of service or add more trains once the station is completed, said Marc Magliari, spokesperson for Amtrak.
The new station will allow Amtrak passengers to continue to commute from Waterloo, which is easy to find and easily accessible because it is less than 2 miles from Interstate 69, Nodine said.
It’s been a long haul, he said.
Waterloo officials were contacted by Amtrak in 2010 and asked to collaborate on a new passenger station. That happened just as the town was completing a major rehabilitation of the Historic Waterloo Depot with a grant provided through the federal Transportation Enhancements Act.
The old depot was moved to its current location, about 1,000 feet east of the Amtrak station, in the mid-1980s to save it from demolition by Conrail, Nodine said.
The construction schedule for the passenger station project is not yet available, Magliari said.
The next step is for town officials to sit down with Amtrak and hammer out a contract, Nodine said.
There are still some issues we have to decide, like who owns and operates the station – Amtrak or Waterloo, he said.
Railroads have always been part of Waterloo’s identity, and the town wants to capitalize on the project as a way to improve its downtown and draw additional visitors and economic development into the community, Nodine said.
This project is important to the entire region, he said.