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Preserving Oregon’s history, connecting modes:  Salem Railroad Depot
 
As ODOT moves forward with its Intermodal Oregon effort, we’ll be highlighting successes in new ways of approaching transportation that reduce traditional barriers between modes.  The Salem Railroad Station’s depot is one of those success stories.
 
The depot is an unassuming structure sitting next to the beautiful 1918 Beaux-Arts Southern Pacific Railroad Station in Salem. The little shed doesn’t look like much, but it could be one of the last 19th Century depots in Oregon. While there has long been an interest in saving this piece of Oregon’s history, doing so proved a challenge for years.  But with a creative multimodal approach to solutions, ODOT was able to assemble the financial support needed to start serious work on restoring the 120-year-old former freight depot/baggage building.
 
Getting the project moving forward required connecting the dots between two separate efforts. ODOT’s Rail Division was looking for options to save the baggage depot; at the same time, a team in ODOT’s Transit Division was helping Greyhound find a new location for its intercity bus depot. Outside the agency, a private donor offered a significant contribution to the baggage depot, and the State Historic Preservation Society expressed interested in potential solutions that would save the historic structure. And the City of Salem and Amtrak, which offers passenger rail service there, also had an interest in a solution. But could all of these people possibly work together?
 
“It is vital to never underestimate the power of ‘yes,’” Gard said. “That was the key to us being able to accommodate multiple interests and save a piece of Salem’s history, initially with very little to no funds.”
 
Gard credits employees working together and keeping that ‘power of yes’ philosophy top of mind.  “Our group was able to stay focused on potential benefits of saving the baggage depot,” he said. “It had to be saved; we just had to figure out how.”
 
The result? They merged two problems into one intermodal solution: they received grant funding, retained the support of the donor, and tapped into multimodal Transportation Enhancement funds. Once renovations on the historic building are completed, the Salem Railroad Station will become an important intermodal hub: Greyhound and others will provide intercity bus service from the depot, it will be served by local Cherriots buses, and the facility will also gain better bicycle and pedestrian access, on top of offering improved connections to passenger rail.
 
Also important is that the joint effort is preserving a unique slice of American history. The building’s exterior displays one of its finest features: triangular, scroll-sawn brackets placed among the overhanging eaves surrounding the building. The peak of the roof features small gables protruding from the end points which tied it to the Queen Ann railroad architecture of the 1889 station.
 
The historic structure will soon be filled with life again because of a thoroughly modern way of looking at things: a multimodal transportation solution, optimizing resources by combining them instead of separating them, connecting people and their communities how they want to be connected.