South Station hasn’t seen a significant upgrade in several decades, according to Mass DOT Secretary Rich Davey.

In the 1980s, the transportation hub was even considered unnecessary to some people in the city, and almost got knocked down, he said.

But the Federal Railroad Administration has taken notice of the iconic station’s role in connecting commuters between cities, and awarded MassDOT $32.5 million to expand and enhance the historic railway’s site.

“It’s the most significant transit asset in New England,” said Davey. “The Federal government can see the commitment by the commonwealth to improve its rail system.”

 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the grant will let the transit agency complete preliminary environmental reviews and engineering activities for future expansion to “meet the needs of the traveling public.”

“Revitalizing and modernizing South Station is not only crucial to accommodating projected population growth, it will create jobs and grow the region’s economy,” LaHood said in a statement.

According to LaHood, South Station is operating beyond its capacity and expects a 50 percent increase in high-speed passenger rail travel in the coming years.

Davey said the $32 million “planning grant” will go toward developing a conceptual design and is the beginning phase of a multiyear process.

The grant proposal was submitted by MassDOT earlier this year, said Davey, and the state agency will contribute $10.5 to this portion of the project.

“This lets us put some muscle behind the project,” he said.

Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear.

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