Last week, the City of Guelph released a tender. It’s a regular occurrence, City Hall releases tenders all the time for various projects. But for local transit nerds, this is a big deal because it means the beginning of the end of a five year odyssey to create an inter-modal transit hub downtown. Yes, the City has released a tender to find a general contractor to renovate Guelph’s historic train station.
“The renovation to Guelph Central Station will improve our city’s intermodal transportation hub by creating a shared space for Guelph Transit, Greyhound Canada, GO Transit and VIA Rail services that’s accessible and convenient for all riders,” said Mario Petricevic, general manager of Facilities Management, in a press release.
The $2.1 million project will include upgrades to windows, south entrance doors and public seating area; new access to the basement; a lunchroom for Guelph Transit drivers; a small management office; new ticket booths for Greyhound Canada and GO Transit; upgrades to the two public washrooms; an accessible washroom; and improvements to the main entrance, including new steps and concrete wheelchair ramp. The winning contractor will have to balance all that, and preserve the existing heritage features.
Well, that all sounds good, but what took so long? Construction on Guelph Central Station began in the summer of 2011 when the old Greyhound station was demolished, and the concrete was laid for bus platforms along Carden St. That phase of the project was supposed to open in October 2011, but Guelph Transit buses didn’t move to the new transit hub until May 2012.
Meanwhile, the Greyhound ticket counter that was relocated to a trailer at the Fountain Street parking lot, was supposed to move into the train station in 2013, when renovations were supposed to begin on the historic building, but there was a snag.
“[T]here were insufficient funds in our budget at the time to make an award to one of the general contractors that bid the job,” Petricevic told me in an email. The 2013 tender was for less than $1 million and while, “There was plenty of interest from the general contractors to bid the job, however, there were insufficient funds at the time to make an award,” Petricevic added.
“Staff had to go back to council with a request for additional funds which was done as part of the 2016 capital budget request last December,” Petricevic explained. In the meantime, Federal government cuts to VIA Rail meant laying off the Guelph ticket agents, and with the GO Transit installing automated machines, it meant that the train station has sat largely empty until Greyhound finally made the move last month.
“Currently, we have $2.1 million available in council approved funding to complete the project. This amount will cover the costs for design, construction, and project management,” Petricevic said.
Petricevic also said that although Guelph Central Station is on the A List of approved projects for infrastructure funding when the Federal government delivers its budget next week, the renovations needed at the train station are already taken care of thanks to the capital budget. “This project is already funded, therefore, I don’t expect there to be any impact to this project,” he added.
The City hopes to start work this May and it will take 12 to 14 months to complete. The station will remain open for the duration. (Check out the full plan here.)