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Salem Railroad Baggage Depot Project

Teamwork creates historic preservation opportunity

The Oregon Department of Transportation is pleased to partner with several organizations, agencies and individuals to restore the historic Baggage Depot at the Salem Railroad Station.

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As important as this site is for ODOT’s intermodal future, we are only funded for a portion of the desired long-term improvements at this time.  The current budget will upgrade the existing depot, provide a ticketing office and bus operations area for Greyhound, and create space for other bus services as to use.  We also plan able to make environmental improvements for the depot and its surroundings as well as improve bike and pedestrian access for daytime or nighttime use. 

Thank you for your interest in Oregon's transportation system!

What's new

December 2014: Crews placed plywood on the exterior after removing the paint to protect the historic baggage depot while engineering activities and research continue. What began as a simple restoration of an historic facility has blossomed into plans for a multimodal area, where people can walk, ride bikes, take the train or ride the bus. It’s a connected future that will benefit the community, but it does lengthen the time it will take to see a finished product.

Protected_Nov14_sm.jpgIn the meantime, we've uploaded a few new photos to our flickr site, www.flickr.com/oregondot. The photo at right shows the depot with its new protective exterior.

September 2014: We have a contractor on-board (Paint Removal Pro), carefully removing the interior wood and exterior siding to preserve as much of the original material as possible. Crews are working in mid-September to October, pulling down and saving the pieces, carefully extracting nails, removing lead-based paint and storing the salvageable ones for re-use when re-construction begins.

We've also begun discussions with the Oregon Arts Commission, as Oregon was one of the first states in the nation to pass the "Percent for Art" law. This requires a minimum amount be spent on publicly-accessible artwork if a project's cost goes over a certain amount. We may have about $15,000 to spend on art associated with the rehabilitation depot!

Also, the Capital Projects Advisory Board approved the project, as follows: Established a $278,841 Other Funds Capital Construction expenditure limitation and a $1,590,307 Federal Funds Capital Construction expenditure limitation for the Department of Transportation to renovate the Salem baggage depot located adjacent to the Amtrak passenger rail station; the new limitations will expire at the end of the 2013-15 biennium.

Sometimes it may appear we're not making progress... but we truly are! We want to make the most out of this opportunity to preserve a historic treasure yet look to our multimodal future, where the Salem community can walk, ride, take the local or long-distance bus or hop on the train - all from one convenient location. These are the kinds of things that contribute to a very enjoyable quality of life.

In August, our donor received a well-deserved award. Salem Mayor Anna Peterson presented Steve Kenney with the Virginia Green award, an award from the Salem Historic Landmark Commission, recognizing exemplary service on behalf of historic preservation within the community. Mayor Peterson said, "Since 2011, you have donated over $116,000 to both the Historic Residential Toolbox Fund and the restoration of the baggage depot, which has leveraged more than twice that amount of funding for restoration of Salem's historic resources. Salem is very lucky to have you within our community."
The Salem Railroad Baggage Depot restoration team is pleased to learn of this well-deserved recognition. We're happy to report that the plaque that will be located at the restored depot, honoring his wife, will read: "Dixie's Depot - Restored in memory of Dixie Kenney who believed in public transportation all her life." Thank you, Kenney family!


May 2014: Have you seen our new photos?! Visit our Flickr site and see the latest.


April 2014: Ramping up for nice weather. Work continues on the rehabilitation of the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot, though much of it is behind the scenes. For example, our team is finalizing paperwork that is required by the Federal Transit Administration in order to retain their continued support. Contractors are also working on refining design options. More visible are the efforts to restore materials taken from the facility. These efforts can be painstakingly slow as contractors try to preserve as much of the original woodwork, glass and other materials as possible. More updates as they become available!


March 2014: Project funding is key to our success. The rehabilitation of the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot is a detailed step-by-step project. Vital to its success is the funding that has been committed to the program, which comes from a variety of sources and demonstrates a true public-private partnership success.

In order to make the most of the funds committed, we must pay attention to details. For example, in working with the Salem Historic Land Commission, we did preliminary work that cost $145,000 (design, engineering and architectural evaluations and research). We presented our findings and received resounding support from the commission in December!

We’ve also held the first pre-construction meeting with the city and put together the draft National Environmental Protection Act package submittal to Federal Transit Administration (a required process).

We also spent $35,000 for removal of asbestos tile, bird waste and other materials inside the building so contractors could safely work in and around the facility as we move forward. And one contractor has removed the brackets and is the middle of restoring them. All but one will be re-used; one will be included in a display (see detail in photo, right).

We are well underway! This summer our project team will work to meet the requirements of a private donor, the State Historic Preservation Office, Greyhound and other stakeholders. Your continued support is greatly appreciated!


Jan. 2014: The Salem Historic Landmark Commission approved the plans! After thorough review and discussion, the Salem Historic Landmark Commission (HLC), on Dec. 19, unanimously approved our proposal to renovate the Salem Railroad Baggage Depot.

“The commissioners praised the efforts on the project,” said ODOT Project Manager Tony Snyder. “They were pleased that the building is being renovated and upgraded to give it a functional use that ensures it will be available for years to come.”

At the meeting, Kimberli Fitzgerald of the city of Salem and Jay Raskin of Nathan Good Architects presented the particulars of the plan. The city recommended that the commission approve the plans, which include the building exterior, repair strategy, bus operations and parking layout, window/door plan, and 3 new canopies for the bus parking. The commission did approve the plans, and now, according to Snyder, the more visible work begins.

“I anticipate the design process will accelerate now that we have an approved plan for the site,” Snyder said. “We now have a framework on which to develop the plans for construction.”

Rendering (preliminary)

Brackets are redwood! When our restorer, Amy McCauley of Oculus Fine Carepentry, Inc., removed the first six brackets on the historic building and began cleaning them, she discovered the brackets were made of redwood.

"Spectacular!" she said, and she's seen a lot of fine craftmanship in her time, having recently completed restorations at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Not everyone was surprised, though. According to rail historian Ed Austin, Southern Pacific often sourced material from California... thus, redwood was fairly common in rail facilities on the West Coast (see before/after photo below).



Next steps: 1) Produce plans and specifications that meet city development and building codes so that we can obtain a building permit;  2) Determine the environmental impacts associated with the project’s “impervious areas” – parking lots, sidewalks, etc.  This will allow us to complete our NEPA submittal documentation that we are preparing for the Federal Transit Administration; 3) Investigate advantages and disadvantages of the two options for Cherriots bus stop  locations; 4) Ensure contracts are in place for continued success.


Nov., 2013: ODOT's Project Team is meeting regularly to keep the rehabilitation of the historic depot moving forward. See a review of the baggage depot's "change over time" in this document. Topics of discussion go beyond the building and include on-site pedestrian movement, entrance/exit locations, parking space design alternatives and more. The overriding theme is "multimodal connections" (after historical rehabilitation, of course!).

___________ FramedCeiling_Depot_small.jpg

Oct., 2013: Our volunteer Technical Advisory Committee members have been working hard! They've been reviewing preliminary plans from the architect and learning more about the history of the depot. Cleanup work is finished and even resulted in a special find: a 1920's baggage receipt book. ODOT Historian Chris Bell and others are making sure the weathered booklet is being well cared for, and it may even be on display when the rehabilitated depot is opened.


Sept., 2013: Cleanup work is beginning this month, with an eye toward preserving as much of the historical material as possible. Contractor Phil-Am Enterprises will be on site, preparing the building and grounds for the next steps in the renovation process.


August, 2013: ODOT has contracted with David Evans & Associates and architect Nathan Good for the initial work (concept plans and permitting); this is where the contractor researches what processes will be required before the next steps can take place. Budgets are being finalized through this process, and plans are being set to gather public input on design and other details.


July, 2013: Our volunteer group of citizens met at the historic facility in July for a tour and to learn about initial concept plans.

June, 2013: We're making progress! In July, our volunteer group of advisors from around the community will meet and tour the site; our consultants will be on the job, providing overall guidance so we can know more about our options. Stay tuned!

April, 2013: We're organizing public involvement. For more information, contact Jean Palmateer, jean.m.palmateer@odot.state.or.us or (503) 986-3472.

March, 2013: We now have this project programmed into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (KN16212). It is set for $176,000 for preliminary engineering work and $5,000 for right of way acquisition.

Feb. 21, 2013: Our Public Transit staff has identified funds we can use for the critical planning portion of rehabilitating the historic Salem Railroad Baggage Depot. These funds will cover the Architecture and Engineering requirements, including traffic analysis, landscape planning and more.

Preserving and restoring the baggage depot is a multi-partner undertaking. A multimodal project such as this, by its nature, is only possible because of monies from different fund types, each with its own requirements and limits for use.

For example, Federal Highway Administration funds for the building renovation and Federal Transit Administration funds for the bus access and operating area will each pay for a part of the overall project but must be tracked separately.  ODOT gas tax funds cannot be used for transit activities as they are constitutionally earmarked for highway and highway-related projects.

This project is fortunate to have private donations and grant funds to support it. The funding scenario is clearly looking up, but it remains complex, and the entire project funding picture is still under development as ODOT moves forward, with our vital partners, to create a multimodal facility that will benefit future users.

Feb. 1, 2013: ODOT is in the process of applying for funds from the Federal Transit Administration to cover the costs of activities that are not eligible expenditures under the other funding already committed. We'll be hosting open houses and collecting input from nearby residents, stakeholders and others interested in this project in the near future.

Current funding commitments:

  • Transportation Enhancement: $575,200
  • Anonymous donor: $96,000
  • Greyhound: $60,000
  • State Historical Preservation Office: $20,000
  • Public Transit Division: $10,000

Total estimated cost of the project is $875,000 which includes about $692,000 for the depot restoration and $183,000 to reconfigure and improve access for buses, bicyclists and pedestrians.


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The 1889 Baggage Depot at the Salem railroad station is one of the last 19th century railroad depots in Oregon. Salvaged from a fire in 1917 that burned Salem’s second railroad station, it became a stand-alone freight handling facility in 1918, and served its purpose well until roughly the last 20 years when it became obsolete and has sat vacant. The building sits next to the 1918 Beaux Arts Station, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

By rehabilitating the facility, ODOT and its partners hope to create a regional multimodal transportation hub. In phase one, the building would receive extensive restoration work, including exterior wall finishes. In phase two, the restoration would focus on the interior, such as bringing it up to compliance with ADA and building a ticket counter and waiting area. Phase three would include construction of bike and pedestrian access to the site and outdoor passenger amenities.
Future phases of work on the facility, dependent on funding, would result in a multimodal facility and transportation alternatives center for Salem area residents.


Let us know your thoughts about restoring the historic baggage depot! Contact Jean Palmateer in ODOT Public Transit:
(503) 986-3472
For media inquiries, contact: Shelley M. Snow, ODOT Public Affairs
(503) 986-3438
cell: (503) 881-5362

Links and resources

Learn more about passenger rail in Oregon. 

Find out about Amtrak Cascades routes, schedules, fares and reservations.

Keep up on what's happening in public transit around the state.

Learn more about historic preservation efforts in Salem.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation is a resource for rail history and preservation.