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'It's A Joke': Passengers, Critics Call For Overhaul Of Pittsburgh's Amtrak Station

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - President Joe Biden's American Jobs Plan includes a major cash infusion for Amtrak, and critics say Pittsburgh's station is long overdue for a makeover

Amtrak's Pennsylvanian pulls into the station at 7:40 p.m. where departing passengers may find a deflating surprise — a broken escalator and a flight of steps leading to a small, windowless waiting room under florescent light and a stained drop ceiling.

"This doesn't look like a train station," said Dinesh Nair of Peters Township.

The waiting room has few amenities. No bar, no restaurant, no food except for what you might find in vending machines. Nair waits for his arriving daughter, disappointed in the gateway to Pittsburgh for rail passengers.

"No, I've been to other train stations. This is not like any of them. If someone is stepping into Pittsburgh, this isn't what they should be seeing," he said.

downtown pittsburgh amtrak station
(Photo: KDKA's Andy Sheehan)

Back in the day, what is now the Pennsylvanian apartment building was the train station for the Pennsylvania Railroad — its rotunda and a spectacular grand hall rivaling the great train stations of America.

Today, the entrance is a potholed lot with a faulty Amtrak sign where you can't actually park but only drop off or pick up a passenger.

Henry Posner III is a railroad owner and historian who teaches the business of railroading at CMU. He's long been calling for Pittsburgh and Amtrak to invest in the station.

"It's an embarrassment. It's a joke," Posner said.

For its part, Amtrak allowed KDKA access to the station but had no comment on its condition. They did send us an inventory of fixes and improvements they plan to undertake over the next two years: fixing the escalator, paving the parking lot, new lighting and new signage.

But while Posner says these are only band-aids, he doesn't blame Amtrak, saying major renovations also need the commitment of both the federal and local government.

"Pittsburgh is a city with unlimited resources. It just has to be a priority," he said.

But outside of what some might consider cosmetic fixes, there is no public outcry or political will to make major renovations here. We'll stay on top of this and let you know if that changes.

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