The Westport NY station platform (L) in the fall of 2022, and (R) in early October 2023.
WHAT ARE THEY BUILDING UP THERE?
The Depot Theatre main stage season is over for the year, but activity at the train station continues!
As the only full-time employee at the Depot, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the project over the past year. I thought I’d provide some answers for the public, now that the project is nearing its end.
In short: Amtrak has hired a contractor to build an improved ADA-compliant platform that will provide more convenient and safe access to the train, building, and parking lot.
In long: there are a lot of steps, materials, and multiple organizations and businesses required to navigate such a complicated project.
The train station that houses the Depot Theatre represents a unique collaboration.
The facility itself is on the National Register of Historic Places, and it, and the platform and railway are owned by Canadian Pacific Railway Co. The Town of Westport leases the building and parking and lot and grounds. The Depot Theatre subleases the building from the Town and manages and maintains it. The Town maintains the parking lot and grounds. Amtrak has an agreement with the Theatre to utilize the building for passengers, and the Theatre is the official station caretaker on behalf of Amtrak.
The platform project is an extension of that spirit of collaboration. The Amtrak project is being managed by Banton Construction, which has an onsite project team with a temporary office inside the train station. They have a number of subcontractors and vendors, but the majority of the onsite work is being done by Fuller Excavating out of Keeseville, N.Y.
WHY IS IT TAKING SO LONG?
From my window in the office of the train station, it’s clear that the project is FAR more complicated than just pouring concrete.
Site work began on the project in August 2022. The work stopped for winter as the next steps included a series of concrete pours that required warmer temperatures. Work resumed in spring of 2023. The project did encounter a number of delays – including material delays, and building and repeatedly moving temporary wooden platforms for passengers – but mostly related to the rainy weather that we all endured.
For scope, here are some of the main components incorporated into the project:
- 200’ x 13’ platform itself, which includes a snow melt system
- Heated slab construction included:
- Removal of many yards of contaminated material adjacent to tracks,
- Installation of crushed stone base,
- Drilled helicals – anchors into the ground from 20-40 feet deep,
- Poured grade beams for the platform base,
- A whole lot of rebar,
- More than a mile of electrical wiring,
- Installation of a complex drainage system
- 50’ x 25’ parking area (2 ADA and 1 regular parking spot)
- Poured sidewalk with ramp to the station lobby door
- Approximately 200’ of handrails
- 5 lighting fixtures
- 3 Amtrak signs
- A Wheel Chair Lift Enclosure building to house lift and mechanicals
PLUS, the newfangled platform is being constructed adjacent to a circa 1876 building that is on the National Register of Historic Places. The project managers have shown great respect for the building by conducting seismic monitoring and ongoing photo records to ensure that it has no impact on the building’s integrity.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
And all along, representatives from the Town of Westport, the Depot Theatre, Amtrak, Banton Construction, and Fuller Excavating have remained in communication to make certain that we all were able to do our work without compromising the others. Schedules were set to ensure that construction didn’t occur during Depot’s performances, and the Town worked with all parties to ensure a consistent and clean connection between the new parking lot paving and the platform components.
PARKING LOT – AT LAST!
In 2019, The Depot applied for and was awarded, on behalf of the Town of Westport, a NYSDEC Smart Growth grant for much-needed parking lot improvements. The project was delayed due to COVID-19, material shortages, and then the Amtrak project to install a new ADA-compliant platform.
Good news: now that the platform access is completed, the parking lot has been newly paved! In another masterful collaboration, Keven Severance, head of the Department of Public Works (DPW) for the Town of Westport, coordinated with Essex County DPW, and the Towns of Moriah and Essex to share equipment and labor to transport the blacktop and to pave.
The new blacktop at the Depot Theatre was installed at beginning of November 2023.
Just like the dichotomy of the Depot Theatre’s high-tech LED lighting on stage INSIDE the original freight room walls, the new platform will provide high-tech, contemporary access for road and rail travelers OUTSIDE the historic circa 1876 building.
Thanks to Banton and and the Town of Westport for their collaborative spirit and generosity in going the extra mile to ensure that the project meets not only Amtrak’s expectations, but provides a safe and welcoming access for visitors, passengers, and theatre patrons for years to come!
CHECK BACK FOR UPDATED PHOTOS AS THE PROJECT IS COMPLETED!
AMTRAK platform project detail showing ADA parking and access.
– Kim Rielly is the Depot Theatre’s Executive Director, a native of Westport, and a recent student of train platform construction.