Engineers: Union Station requires $3.7 million in emergency repairs

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Indianapolis plans to spend $3.7 million to fix pressing structural problems at historic Union Station, and architects say the building could use another $3.8 million in improvements.

The Department of Metropolitan Development hopes to tap the downtown tax increment financing (TIF) fund for the emergency work. A source of funding for the extra upgrades hasn't been identified, but DMD Director Adam Thies said the city could apply for federal grants.

Thies also is considering the possibility of selling the Greyhound and Amtrak terminal. It's the one section of the building that could be carved off into a separate parcel, he said.

"We do have to keep considering the future of this building," Thies said Wednesday morning after a tour led by architect Greg Jacoby of Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects.

As many as 25 freight trains a day run through city-owned Union Station, which spans four city blocks. The tracks are supported by a steel superstructure. Several tenants, including the Crowne Plaza hotel, occupy the building at street level.

The Metropolitan Development Commission was scheduled to hear an update Wednesday on the emergency work. The department has already authorized more than $725,000 in work. That included some work on the south wall, where water infiltration caused bricks to fall off in December 2012. 

Thies will ask the commission to extend Browning Day's contract in anticipation of a full fix for the south wall. That work, which will go out for bid this fall, is estimated to cost $1.5 million. "This is the most pressing item," Thies said.

The brick is just a facade for the steel structure that supports freight railroad tracks, owned by CSX, Jacoby said. Water infiltration caused brackets in the structure to deteriorate and sink, pushing out water and bricks.

Because of the 2012 incident, Browning Day and structural engineer Mike Lawson examined the expansion joints that run the length of the station. Those also are in need of repair, Jacoby said.

The good news, Thies said, is that there are no major issues with the steel structure holding up the trains.

Other items that would be fixed immediately are the roof and chimney of the head house, which is the iconic red brick building at Illinois and Louisiana streets; expansion joints along the length of the train station; a corroded steel staircase under the Meridian Street bridge; and damaged skylights along the length of the train shed.

While CSX isn't obligated to maintain Union Station, Thies said he will seek the company's help in paying for the immediate fixes.

Browning identified other serious—but not as pressing—problems throughout the building. Some of those include water infiltration in various places, deteriorating mortar on the clock tower and deterioration of the roof of the train shed. The rough estimate for those non-structural and cosmetic repairs is $3.8 million.

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