The Grover Beach train station is about to receive much-needed improvements and enhancements.
The 22-year-old facility is located at the busy corner of Highway 1 and Grand Avenue.
While it’s functional, the station layout isn’t ideal or user-friendly for the many passengers that arrive either on Amtrak trains or buses.
“The bus parking and long-term parking are on the opposite side of the tracks,” said San Luis Obispo Council of Governments executive director Ron De Carli. “It’s very confusing to the general public and the riders.”
Some users said the split property is so confusing that many times people will miss ride on the train or bus.
In effort to improve accessibility and functionality, a $3.1 million expansion project is now underway.
On Wednesday, the City of Grover Beach held a formal groundbreaking ceremony to help celebrate the start of construction.
“The whole project will relocate the main entry point into the train station,” said Grover Beach mayor John Shoals. “We’re going to build a new bus platform, which allows for buses to come in and drop people off on the same side as the railroad tracks as the train depot. We’re going to add 40 new parking spaces. We’re going to add some new walkways and new ADA compliance and then there’s going to be benches and lighting to improve security, so overall we’re going to add all these amenities and components to improve the passenger’s experience.”
The shifting of the bus drop-off/pick-up location will be a dramatic improvement for the thousands of passengers who arrive in Grover Beach each year.
“This is going to allow the people coming in by bus to be on the same side of the tracks and have a pleasant stroll to the depot,” said Shoals. “One of the other things we’re going to be looking at is having our local buses and try to make this a stop as well, so that makes us a fully integrated multimodal center.”
Local leaders have been working on the improvement plan for several years and are hoping the enhanced facility will attract more people to use Amtrak services.
“We see this as one of our overall concepts of improving mobility, maximizing choices for the general public, expanding rail ridership now,” said De Carli.
De Carli stressed that increased rail and bus ridership will be a huge benefit to everyone on the Central Coast.
“All those people would be driving in cars and jamming our highways, so part of it traffic congestion, part of it is mobility of choices, part of it is clean air, so it’s a whole combination of things,” De Carli said.
Just a few feet from the tracks is Station Grill, a longtime popular stop for locals and travelers.
The 18-year-old restaurant is one of many area businesses that stands to gain should more passengers use the new and improved facility.
“We’re excited,” said Station Grill owner Karen Rivas. “We’re excited for it to be done so we can have more people visiting the area and it will be easier access for all of the customers for Amtrak.”
Rivas added that increased exposure for the train station will also help out, especially for locals that have never used it before.
“A lot of people don’t know that the train station exists and that we actually have trains that stop four times a day, besides the 20-plus buses that stop everyday, so you can get just about anywhere you need up and down the coast by the train station,” said Rivas.
Along with the planned hotel to be located across the street, Shoals believes Grover Beach is setting up for a bright future.
“This is near where we’re going to be building a four-star hotel, so someone would come in from Los Angeles or up north, land here at the train station, be able to go right over and enjoy the new hotel that is coming and then people will be encouraged to stay here and spend money at our local businesses, so we see this as a win-win on all sides,” Shoals said.
The hope is the hotel, along with an increase in train and bus passengers, will deliver the city a surge in tourism.
“We believe this is going to create that energy and that catalyst project that helps up get development up and down the Grand Avenue corridor and bring in revenues that we can spend on our core services, police, fire and continue working on our streets,” said Shoals.
Funding for the train station project is coming through a variety of sources, including grants at the federal, state and regional levels.
Construction is scheduled to start later this month and be completed sometime next spring.