Smart Building Systems Help Bring the Union Station Back to Life

LEDG was able to deliver a highly-connected, digital infrastructure for the convenience of passengers without disrupting the overall unique architectural attributes of the historic facility.

The Springfield Grand Union Station, built in 1926 by the Boston & Albany Railroad, is exactly 89 miles from Boston and Albany. It was used by the all major railways in New England and was especially busy during World War II. By the mid-1950s transportation and economic patterns shifted to interstate highways and the 1926 station and baggage building closed in the 1970s when the Boston & Albany Railroad ceased to exist and Amtrak took over the station’s passenger routes. The building was neglected for many years and required a cost-prohibitive rehabilitation. Amtrak opened a makeshift station at street level within the passenger tunnel with one Lyman Street entrance, and the connection from the tunnel to the old station was sealed. In 1994 Amtrak constructed a station building at track level and sealed o the passenger tunnel except for the Lyman Street entrance and a stairway and elevator shaft used to install one modern elevator.

The Springfield Redevelopment Authority (SRA) collaborated with the Massachusetts Historical Commission to facilitate the Union Station restoration. The plan, estimated to cost $85.5 million, would restore the Union Station Terminal building for reuse as a modern intermodal station and fully build out the first floor and main concourse with 64,000 square feet of rentable commercial space ticketing, and waiting areas. The baggage building would be demolished and the baggage tunnel sealed and replaced with an open-air bus station and a six-story 377-space parking garage. The Station’s historic imagery would be preserved while modernizing the structure for safer access and digital communications as well as support for all types environmental sustainable non-auto travel such as bus, rail, bicycle, and pedestrian. Constructing an energy-efficient building was also a requirement.

Financing for the Union Station project consisted of federal, state, and local funds including FTA grants and DOT Bus Livability grants, State Transportation Bond Funds, an O -Street Parking grant, and more. Construction began in April 2013 and by December 2016, Congressman Richard E. Neal and Springfield Chief Development Officer Kevin Kennedy helped unveil the refurbished Union Station clock which returned to its rightful place of glory representing the Springfield’s historic past and bright future. As of May 2017, 91% of the commercial space has been rented and planners expect five-to-eight million passengers and other guests to pass through Union Station, its grounds, and the 377-space parking deck each year.

Modernization Efforts Calls for Transit Intelligent Building Solutions

Leading Edge Design Group (LEDG) was commissioned to design an intelligent building infrastructure for the new Union Station, inclusive of telecommunications, wireless, security, and digital signage infrastructure. A highlight of this work was the new Union Station video wall. Centered in the main terminal, the new video wall is one of the focal points of the terminal, providing communication with passengers about delays, outages, weather, news, sports, and emergencies. In addition, the video wall provides a way for Union Station to sell advertising at an increased rate, as many advertisers can take advantage of marketing at a high-profile, central location vs. the Station having to manage wall sign sales in low par locations.

LEDG’s digital signage design integrates all indoor and outdoor signage communication and displays schedule information f or all modes of transportation moving throughout. Through integration with the Station’s technology applications, the signage system keeps passengers up-to-date with real-time information.

In creating the information and communications system infrastructure design for the Station, LEDG was challenged to balance the historical preservation of this unique facility with the need to provide passengers with a modern travel experience. When designing the cabling, wireless, digital signage, and public address system, the team at LEDG was able to deliver a highly-connected, digital infrastructure for the convenience of passengers without disrupting the overall unique architectural attributes of the historic facility.