The Milwaukee Intermodal Station, downtown’s new Amtrak train and bus station, had its grand opening yesterday. According to WISN sources, guests at the ribbon cutting ceremony included the project designer, Milwaukee government officials – Governor Jim Doyle and Mayor Tom Barrett to name a few – and everyday passengers who were commuting to work or heading back home from the holiday weekend, and some locals who just wanted to catch a glimpse into the new station.
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about this. After looking at the photos in the Journal Sentinel yesterday, the $16.9 million project has clearly transformed the former Amtrak station into a new and improved facility.
I wasn’t there for the grand opening, but I took a detour on my way home from work last night and drove past the new building on St. Paul Ave. I can’t believe how different it looks! Check out these photos and see it for yourself if you haven’t already. It’s pretty cool, don't you think?
The new Intermodal Station has definitely updated the former 42-year-old Amtrak Station with a modernized exterior and remodeled waiting room that’s made of a contemporary, three-story steel and glass galleria, which I think is reminiscent of the clean openness of the Calatrava. Plus, the hub now serves Greyhound buses as well as Amtrak’s Milwaukee-to-Chicago line and long-distance Empire Builder Line that goes to the Twin Cities and Green Bay.
The remodeling has received a lot of hype, but I think it’s well deserved. I’ve taken the Amtrak multiple times prior to the renovation and was a little embarrassed by its unwelcoming appearance. It was an unacceptably unpleasant way to enter the city, with a dim and depressing interior virtually devoid of windows, natural light and charm of any sort. All the old station offered was a single entry train depot and worn-out seats in a dismal waiting room with a couple vending machines that provided stale bags of Cheetos for travelers – there wasn’t much to brag about.
Now, the station is being hailed as a new hub with multiple transportation options: passenger rail, intercity and regional bus connections, and taxi and limousine services; plus new features including office and retail spaces, and food services. Milwaukee finally has a more dignified place to wait for a train, but there’s still room for more expansion.
As of now, the improvements haven’t touched the platform, so the boarding process will remain as uninviting as ever. Was this really overlooked? Perhaps there are plans to revamp the dingy, unattractive depot in the future. I certainly hope so at least – I wouldn’t want visitors passing through the city and leaving with such a misguided first impression of Milwaukee.
But for the most part, the thousands of Amtrak passengers who come through Milwaukee for business or pleasure each year will find the station to be a unique and inviting place to catch a bus or train. At last, the city has a facility that is more welcoming to travelers and more representative of Milwaukee. The renovation is a big step in keeping up with the city’s constant evolution.
Besides the current changes, there’s potential for additional transportation means and citywide or regional connections. I read an article this morning about possible plans for the Intermodal Station. The author is hopeful that someday transportation will be available so that people can take a commuter train from their home in Kenosha and hop a streetcar to their job downtown. Future plans may even speak of high-speed trains that could whisk people away to a relative’s home in Oshkosh for the holidays as well.
While the new Milwaukee Intermodal Station does indeed boost the city’s image and encourages progress, I’m confident that there’s more that can and will be done in the future. This is a great start!
Check it out and let me know what you think.
Milwaukee Intermodal Station
433 West St. Paul Ave., Milwaukee