FULLERTON : Depot Restoration Completed

Capping more than 12 years of planning and $18 million worth of improvements, the city this week celebrates the completion of renovation of its two historic train depots and the opening of a pedestrian bridge linking them.

The Fullerton station, which serves more than 900 Amtrak and Metrolink passengers a day, has long been a transportation hub, city officials said. And both depots recently were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

"We're a junction here," said Terry M. Galvin, the city's redevelopment operations manager. "The tracks go south to San Diego and east to Chicago."

The Union Pacific depot, which today houses a Spaghetti Factory restaurant, was built in 1922 across town. It was moved recently so that the old structure could be included in the restoration project.

The Santa Fe depot, one of Southern California's oldest railroad stations still in service, was built in 1930 on the current site. At the time, "it was the most elaborate depot in Orange County," said Santa Ana Councilman Robert L. Richardson, a railroad station enthusiast.

"This one is unique," he said of the depot, "because it's busier now than it was when it was built."

Unlike many other old depots nationwide, it was never slated to be closed or turned into a museum, said Richardson, who spoke to a crowd of about 500 who turned out to tour the station at an open house Sunday.

"The city of Fullerton has the ability to keep these buildings and have them used, providing a vital service," he said. "That is the key to historic preservation."

The new 28-foot bridge, with an elevator at each end, joins the two areas of a transportation center that includes four restaurants and a coffee shop and sees more than 50 passenger and freight trains either stop or pass through every day. The center is also a terminal for Orange County Transportation Authority buses.

Fullerton Heritage, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the city's older buildings, placed plaques Sunday to commemorate the station's historical significance.

Through the years, the transportation center has "received just about unanimous support from all segments of the community," Galvin said.

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