Restoration of historic Virginia train station celebrated on latest Roadshow stop
The Engineering and Public Works Roadshow came to Main Street Station in Richmond, Virginia on March 24th to celebrate the historic train station’s transformation into a multimodal transit center and event venue. The roadshow is a partnership between ASCE, APWA, and ACEC to highlight the meaningful, transformational work of engineers and public works professionals and to encourage people to pursue careers in engineering. The station was the second stop for the roadshow, which kicked off at the Port of Long Beach in California in November 2022.
The landmark Main Street Station has been a part of Richmond’s historic downtown since 1901 but faced an uncertain future not too long ago. Fortunately, an extensive renovation over the last 30 years has given the station new life. The station’s renovation included restoring architectural features like marble floors and wooden beams to how they looked at the turn of the 20th Century. The station’s train shed is now an enclosed event venue the size of a football field that hosts trade shows, galas, weddings, and concerts.
The renovation restored the station to its original purpose and more after decades of challenges and changes. In 1972, Hurricane Agnes caused extensive flooding along the James River and damaged the station. Amtrak left Main Street Station for the Richmond suburbs a few years later. Fires damaged the train station in 1976 and 1983. Main Street Station briefly reopened as a mall in 1985 and then was transformed into government office space in 1986.
Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who attended the event, talked about how the effort to restore Main Street Station started during his time as a city council member in Richmond in the early 1990s. The city purchased the building and surrounding land during Kaine’s time as Richmond’s mayor. Amtrak service returned to the station in 2003, and the transformation of the shed completed the $95 million revitalization project in 2018.
Main Street Station is now a hub for mass transit in Downtown Richmond. Multiple Amtrak trains serve the station each day, connecting Richmond to the rest of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Main Street Station is also a stop on the Greater Richmond Transit Company’s Pulse bus line, which provides high-frequency service to locations across the city.
The Roadshow series highlights the economic benefits of investing in impactful infrastructure projects. Attendees heard from the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and the Federal Railroad Administration about how expanded Amtrak service in Virginia helps drive the Commonwealth’s economy and has the potential to help reduce congestion on Virginia’s most crowded highways like Interstate 95 and Interstate 64. They also highlighted how funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help build new rail lines and bridges to reduce congestion on train tracks operating near full capacity.
ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith highlighted the need to grow the infrastructure workforce as projects from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law create high-paying jobs across America. He told the crowd, “seeing something that stands the test of time and enhances the beauty of a city can lure students and young professionals into the world of STEM so that they, too, can one day say they contributed to the iconic building shaping their community.”
Rehabilitating Main Street Station was a long and personal mission for many people involved with the project. Richmond Department of Public Works Senior Project Manager Jeannie Welliver called the restoration and renovation “a dream” for the people who had the vision to return the station to its original glory. She paid tribute to those who worked for years to get the project to the finish line. Welliver, along with several other people who held leadership roles in the Main Street Station project, received awards from Roadshow organizers ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers), APWA (American Public Works Association), and ACEC (American Council of Engineering Companies) for their contributions to the community.