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Canopy On Track For Union Station

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Canopy On Track For Union Station

Tampa code officials long complained the overhang at Union Station was an eyesore and a danger to travelers.
Work is under way on a new canopy at the station, at Nebraska Avenue and Twiggs Street. By JAY CONNER / Tribune

By RICH SHOPES The Tampa Tribune

Published: May 2, 2007

TAMPA - The dilapidated canopy at Union Station finally is being refurbished, almost a year after code inspectors started complaining about it.

City officials say the overhang is a danger to train passengers and an eyesore to motorists driving by the Renaissance-style terminal at Nebraska Avenue and Twiggs Street in downtown Tampa.

City code officials have complained since last spring about possible safety hazards, including loose shingles that could slide off or go flying in a strong gust.

One end of the canopy is collapsing, and the roof has holes.

Demolition started last week, and workers have cordoned off the most rundown portion, about 40 feet parallel to track 2, city officials say.

The project will take about three months, with workers replacing the asbestos shingles, rusty gutters and rotted beams and rafters, according to plans on file at the city. The shingles already have been torn off.

Close to a third of the canopy, or 170 feet, is in disrepair. Two canopies exist at Union Station, but only one is targeted for repairs.

"It's like any other violation we have. We're working with them," said Curtis Lane, the city's top code enforcement official, referring to CSX Corp., which owns the tracks and adjacent waiting platform.

That's a big turnaround from March, when officials were threatening to drag the railroad company before a code enforcement officer to compel it to repair the canopy or face possible fines.

The dispute goes back to at least the spring of 2006, when officials requested the upkeep, noting the safety and aesthetic issues.

In August, inspectors issued a notice of violation against CSX, and on March 21 a code enforcement hearing was scheduled.

The company might have been called on to explain its inaction, but it told city officials before the hearing that the canopy would be repaired, Lane said.

However, CSX is not making the repairs.

Amtrak, which runs two trains daily to Tampa and leases the station, is overseeing the work and footing the bill.

Steven Haerter, a project manager for Amtrak, estimated the price tag close to $250,000.

He said CSX and Amtrak share maintenance responsibilities at several sites, similar to a tenant and landlord at a store. He couldn't say why the project took so long to start.

For months, the city pushed CSX to make the repairs, arguing it was liable for maintenance because it owns the property.

Ownership of the terminal was transferred to the city in 1998, but the platforms were excluded from that transfer, so they remained in CSX's hands.

The company, in turn, argued that Amtrak was responsible for the repairs because it was leasing Union Station.

City officials attributed the delay, at least in part, to that dispute.

"I think CSX is trying to be good neighbors with the city," Lane said. "That's all I'm going to say."

Reporter Rich Shopes can be reached at (813) 259-7633 or at [email protected].
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CSX doesn't pay for anything. They are experts at getting the public (in this case Amtrak who the government has kept bailing out) to pay for what they are responsible for.
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