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Balance of History, Accessibility Sought for Train Station - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Balance of History, Accessibility Sought for Staunton Train Station

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Amtrak station in Staunton Amtrak station in Staunton

Dozens rallied in Staunton Friday in the name of preserving history.

Amtrak wants to upgrade the city's train station to meet new disability requirements, but some of the proposed changes would effectively destroy pieces of the past. When city planners and history buffs got wind of the renovations Amtrak officials proposed this spring, they pushed back.

"It's not just that train station building; it's this 440-foot concourse with its dramatic sweep that follows the tracks, with these beautiful Tuscan columns, and this beautiful roof that covers it," said Frank Strassler, executive director of the Historic Staunton Foundation.

Amtrak recommended raising the entire platform eight inches so the exit isn't quite as steep. This would require removing all the concrete, disrupting the columns and installing a lift station that Strassler says would block the scenic view.

"We can provide the accessibility that is needed without removing the historic materials, and we can enhance the historic materials then," Strassler said.

Strassler believes the station, off Middlebrook Avenue, defines the city's Historic District, so he's fighting Amtrak's plans for massive overhauls.

Sharon Angle, director of city planning, said, "We feel there are different ways to do this. And we think we've given them some adequate suggestions."

To make the station more handicapped-accessible, the protesters suggest alternatives such as installing more ramps and adding more parking spaces for those with disabilities.

Staunton would not pay for any of Amtrak's proposed changes. Rather, Amtrak would fund the work through federal money.

There is no word yet on when the designers will give feedback to the concerns raised at the rally.

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