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Rugby Amtrak depot undergoes remodel | News, Sports, Jobs

Sue Sitter/PCT Bricks from an old platform at the Rugby Amtrak Depot are being removed to make room for a new platform that complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A project to improve customer access and comfort at the Rugby Amtrak Depot has some local residents concerned, according to former Rugby Mayor Dale Niewoehner.

“I know of quite a few people who are upset about (Amtrak) tearing up the old platform,” Niewoehner said. “They’re sad to see it go.”

“However,” I have added, “All this work seemingly means that Rugby will continue to be served with Amtrak services for years to come and that Rugby is so fortunate to have Amtrak services in our community.”

Niewoehner, a local business owner and longtime advocate for Amtrak’s presence in the community, has involved himself in community matters for decades. He’s a member of the Rugby Lions Club, which has slow support to the depot’s upkeep in the past.

The remodel project entails removing the 115-year-old structure’s brick platform and replacing it with one that complies with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, known as the ADA.

The ADA requires facilities to make modifications 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 won’t align with steps on trains, making it more difficult for people in wheelchairs or people using canes to board.

Explaining the improvements, Magliari said, “We have a $2.6 million project going on at the station to create an ADA compliant welcoming platform for all our customers.”

“The platform needs to be the proper height to match up with the train,” Magliari added. “The platform also needs to have some edging along the track side of it so people with items such as canes can tell they’re reaching the end of the platform. And of course, it needs to be properly lit. Those are the highlights of the project.”

Other improvements for the Rugby depot include heating capabilities on the platform and an air conditioning system to be installed inside the building.

Grand Forks subcontractor CL Linfoot has installed the air conditioning system. Michael Sparks of Stations Michael Sparks of Amtrak’s Philadelphia office heads up the project as its senior engineer. Granite Construction, headquartered in California, is installing the platform.

Originally built in 1907 for the Great Northern Railroad, the depot received a place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The placement followed a remodel project spearheaded by local organizations including the Rugby Lions Club in the late 1980s, according to information from “Great American Stations,” a web page created by Amtrak.

Niewoehner expressed disappointment that the depot’s status on the register was apparently not taken into account by Amtrak when they decided to make the platform ADA compliant.

However, Magliari said, “It has to be ADA compliant. That’s the law.”

He said numbers tracking ridership for people with disabilities indicated 14,091 people “identifying themselves as disabled” traveled on the Empire Builder in 2019, which he said was “up 14.8% from 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 years gone by.

Niewoehner said the Prairie Village Museum has offered to take the bricks removed from the old platform.

He also voiced concerns about the impact the new platform would have on drainage into the City of Rugby’s storm and wastewater system.

Rugby City Auditor Jennifer Stewart said she had not been in contact with anyone from the construction firm in charge of the project about any possible impacts on the city’s storm drains caused by the new platform.

Rugby Mayor Sue Steinke said according to the city’s 2014 comprehensive plan, “the city has more than enough capacity to handle the drainage.”

Steinke said low water levels at the city lagoons, which catch drainage from Rugby, give the city “more than enough capacity for this runoff without concern.”

The lagoons’ low water levels are the result of several years of drought, Steinke noted.

Magliari said the project should be completed by June.


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