Travelers arriving in Milwaukee via train get a pathetic first impression of the city. It appears almost nothing has been done to improve, or even take care of, the downtown Milwaukee train station at 433 W. St. Paul Ave. since it was built in 1965.
The station looks dark, dirty and dilapidated. “What you see there is pretty much the original building,” said Greg Uhen, president of Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects.
Eppstein Uhen is the architect for the $15.6 million remodeling of the train station into an intermodal station anchored by Amtrak and Greyhound. The project, which began recently, is expected to be complete by August of 2007.
“I want it to be the opposite of what it is today,” Uhen said. “It will portray the opposite image of Milwaukee that it does today. Certainly the building is being refurbished. But the whole idea of the refurbishing is to create a great space. I call it Milwaukee’s front foyer.”
The building is owned by the state Department of Transportation (DOT). The building is being leased by Milwaukee Intermodal Partners, which is responsible for operating the station and is overseeing the remodeling project. Milwaukee Intermodal Partners is an affiliate of Los Angeles and Chicago-based Wilton Partners, which was also hired by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to renovate the oases for that state’s tollways.
The federal government is providing about $6 million for the project. The state is providing $600,000, Milwaukee Intermodal Partners is providing $3 million and the City of Milwaukee created a tax incremental financing (TIF) district to provide $6 million for the project, said Ron Adams, chief of railroads and harbors for the DOT.
The remodeling project will completely change the exterior appearance of the train station by adding a 7,500-square-foot glassy galleria to the front. Inside, the entire station will be gutted and rebuilt.
During the construction project, the building will continue to function as an Amtrak train station. The general contractor for the project is Milwaukee-based C.G. Schmidt Construction Inc.
“We have a phasing plan that we have developed with C.G. Schmidt,” said Scott Mayer, president of Milwaukee Intermodal Partners. “It may not be the most efficient, but the building will remain open to serve Amtrak’s customers.”
The Milwaukee station is one of Amtrak’s busiest. The passenger railroad serves more than 500 destinations, and last year, the Milwaukee station was the 22nd-busiest, serving 474,808 passengers, up 35,917 passengers, or 8.2 percent, compared with 2004. The Chicago-to-Milwaukee corridor is one of Amtrak’s eight busiest corridors.
Amtrak officials are glad that the Milwaukee station is getting a much needed remodeling, spokesman Marc Magliari said.
“It’s important to our passengers and to each community we serve that there is an attractive place to board and disembark from the train,” he said.
The addition of Greyhound will make the station twice as busy. Last year, Greyhound served about 587,000 passengers at its downtown Milwaukee bus station at 606 N. James Lovell St. Greyhound will move from that station to the intermodal station after the remodeling project is complete.
Dallas-based Greyhound is a tenant in more than 100 intermodal stations across the country, said spokeswoman Anna Folmnsbee.
“When an intermodal product comes up in a city, the usual reaction from Greyhound is to try to be part of that facility,” she said. “A lot of those are also shared by Amtrak. That kind of seamless connectivity is beneficial to the community, to our company and to the riders. The (destination) options are so much more numerous than when we are in a facility on our own.”
The interior of the station will look completely different after the remodeling project is complete. New bathrooms will be located in the middle of the building, next to a new 3,777-square-foot restaurant area. The set-up will be similar to a food court, Mayer said. In addition, a handful of small retail kiosks will be set up.
The interior of the station will have a new sound system, new lighting and will be designed so monitors, TV screens and signs can be displayed, Uhen said.
The Amtrak ticket counter will be moved to the east side of the building, near the door to board to the train. The Greyhound ticket counter will be added on the west side of the building, near the bus boarding area.
If the Chicago area Metra commuter rail service is extended from Kenosha to Milwaukee, it would stop at the intermodal station. The remodeling plans do not include space for Metra, but Mayer said its needs could be met if the service is extended.
“We could certainly accommodate them,” he said. “There is room in the facility, we all believe, to accommodate them.”
As part of the remodeling project, nine bus parking stalls will be added just west of the building for Greyhound.
In the future, Milwaukee Intermodal Partners hopes to add more bus services as tenants at the station, Mayer said.
“We’ve spoken with Greyhound about including other bus services in the facility, subject to their agreement,” he said. “Other bus services will hopefully incorporated in the facility over time.”
The daily Wausau-to-Milwaukee bus service by Green Bay-based Lamers Bus Lines stops at the Amtrak station in downtown Milwaukee. That is expected to continue, Mayer said.
“We’ll probably work with them to operate there in the future,” he said.
Wisconsin Coach Lines provides express bus service from the Milwaukee Amtrak station to O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport in Chicago. In addition, Megabus.com, a sister company of Wisconsin Coach Lines, provides express service from the Milwaukee Amtrak station to downtown Chicago.
Wisconsin Coach Lines has a route from Kenosha and Racine to Milwaukee that stops at the downtown Milwaukee Greyhound station. Once Greyhound moves to the intermodal station, Wisconsin Coach Lines will probably shift that stop to the intermodal station, said Tom Dieckelman, vice president of Wisconsin Coach Lines.
Unlike Greyhound, which leases its current downtown bus depot, Madison-based Badger Coaches, which provides bus service from Milwaukee to Madison, owns its downtown Milwaukee facility at 635 N. James Lovell St. John Meier, general manger of Badger Coaches, said they would consider moving to the intermodal station, but only at the right price.
“We would if it would be within reason for cost,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s going to be.”
“We spoke to them a few years ago,” Mayer said. “They indicated at the time they were not interested.”
Very few of Badger Coaches’ riders make connections to another bus or a train, Meier said, so being at the intermodal station would have minimal benefit for the company.
“That’s not a large market for us,” he said.
A new queing area will be created for taxi cabs on the east side of the building.
The Milwaukee County Transit System bus stall in front of the station has been removed. However, the MCTS’ route 57 bus will continue to stop in front of the intermodal station, said Joe Caruso, MCTS marketing director. Passengers are expected to wait in the intermodal station for the route 57 bus, he said, especially since the galleria will make the station closer to St. Paul Avenue. No changes are planned to the MCTS service at the intermodal station.
The 7,500-square-foot, three-story glassy galleria will be the biggest change to the interior and the exterior of the station.
“It’s small, but it has a high impact,” Uhen said. “We are essentially building a new three-story building in front of the old one. The galleria becomes this grand space.”
The station will be well lit from the outside and lights on the inside will shine through the galleria windows. The station will shine at night, making it a huge visual improvement over the current station’s dark appearance.
“It’s essentially the opposite of what’s there today,” Uhen said.
The other exterior walls of the station will be replaced with new pre-cast concrete walls.
“The entire skin of the building is coming off,” Uhen said. “It will be solid box behind a glassy box.”
People in the galleria will be able to see office workers through windows on the second and third floors of the building. Amtrak and Greyhound will occupy 7,500 square feet on the second floor, and the remaining 11,000 square feet will be leased to other tenants. The third floor will be occupied by the DOT.
“You’re going to see activity on the upper floors,” Uhen said.
To support the galleria structure, nine 10-inch steel tubes will be installed to connect the galleria to the current building.
“It will add to the interest of the inside of the galleria,” Uhen said. “It will look sort of like Pixie Sticks flying through space. It’s a structural necessity. We took a structural necessity and made it almost a work of art.”
Looking ahead, the DOT is in the preliminary stages of planning a major improvement to the train shed behind the station, Adams said. That will occur after the station’s remodeling project is complete, but no plans, schedule or budget has been determined, he said.
The train platforms and access to the platforms must be upgraded to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, the train shed itself will either be replaced to restored to upgrade its appearance.
“We’ve got a new building in front of it,” Adams said. “We want to carry that through and make that whole experience pleasant and attractive (for the passengers).”
Milwaukee Intermodal Station
Address: 433 W. St. Paul Ave., Milwaukee
Total redevelopment project cost: $15.6 million
Owner: Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Operator: Milwaukee Intermodal Partners LLC
Anchor tenants: Amtrak and Greyhound
General contractor: CG Schmidt
Architect: Eppstein Uhen Architects
Minority- and women-owned construction firms will play a major role in the remodeling of the downtown Milwaukee Amtrak station into an intermodal station. Disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) and emerging business enterprise (EBE) firms are receiving 25 percent of the construction dollars for the project, according to the state Department of Transportation. Those firms are:
• Atlas Heating & Sheet Metal Works, Milwaukee
• Badger Lighting & Signs, Waukesha
• Belonger Corp., West Bend
• Buveck Consultants LLC,
• CH Coakley & Company, Milwaukee
• CW Enterprise Electric Company, Waukesha
• George Harris Trucking, Milwaukee
• Hopwood Masonry Inc., Milwaukee
• Joe Nevels Landscape Company, Grafton
• K&B Trucking Inc., Franklin
• Milwaukee Ironworks LLC, Franksville
• Ojibwa Ready Mix LP, New Berlin
• Price & Sons Inc., Milwaukee
• Reynolds Services, Greenfield
• Roberts Roofing & Siding Inc., Glendale
• Rodriguez Construction Corp., Waukesha
• Sonag Company, Milwaukee
• South Star Inc., Milwaukee
• Thomas A. Mason Company, Milwaukee
• Togo Disposal, Brown Deer