WATERLOO, Ind. (WANE) Starting next year, people who board an Amtrak train at the Waterloo station will have more than a “bus stop” shelter to wait in before boarding. It’s part of a ten-year community effort to replace the existing shelter and return the historic Waterloo Depot to passenger use.
In 2010, Waterloo received a $1,820,100 grant from the US Department of Transportation. Changes to the project nearly caused the town to lose funding. However, the project is moving forward and expected to be complete early next year.
The money will be used to replace the existing bus stop shelter and renovate the Waterloo Depot, including providing wifi and a public information display so passengers can see detailed arrival and departure information. There will also be a new long-term, lit parking lot added.
The project will physically move the historic depot to the southeast corner to Center Street and Van Vleek Street, closer to the existing Amtrak boarding area. These changes should improve the waiting and parking area so passengers have a better experience and residents enjoy the benefits of a more attractive parking lot. Currently, the Amtrak stop at Waterloo consists of a set of enclosed metal and plexiglass shelters beside the boarding platform.
In 2005, Waterloo received funds to restore the historic depot, which is now being used as a community center. When the project is complete the part of the building will be open daily for train passengers and the other half of the building will continue to be available for community use.
“We just really hope that this is a good boost for our town. It’s great for the riders and we want it to be comfortable for Amtrak”s passengers. When they come here, we want it to be a good experience for the visitors and we really want it to be a nice station so we’re very excited that we get to do this for the community,” said Tena Woenker, Town Manager of Waterloo.
Waterloo has the third largest ridership of any Indiana station. The station has seen a 35% increase in Amtrak passengers since 2009. While only about 2,200 people live in Waterloo, the town sees around 25,000 passengers.
“We’ve always believed that if we can get this train station to function like it originally was back in the train days in the late 1800s, that’s it’s going to increase Amtrak’s ridership, it’s going to bring better customer service and more people will want to come to Waterloo and spend their money and ride trains,” said David Bolton, President of Waterloo Town Council.
Geoff Paddock with the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association wants to see Amtrak service returned to Fort Wayne. The last time Amtrak was in the city was in 1990. Paddock doesn’t believe the changes in Waterloo will interfere with a proposal to bring Amtrak back to Fort Wayne.
“We (Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association) believe there is a market to serve both stations, and our proposal for a Chicago to Columbus stop in Fort Wayne does not interfere with the current line that serves Waterloo,” Paddok said in a statement. “We have always said that there is ridership and a strong market to serve both.”
In August, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and eight other mayors signed an agreement showing their support for a Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus passenger rail corridor.