Built in 1908, the Detroit Lakes BNSF Train Depot is showing its age, but the White Earth Department of Transportation, partnering with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, began construction this week to restore the depot back to its original shape.

The cost of the renovation is $575,000 and should take around 12 weeks to complete. White Earth is funding the construction project through money earmarked to the tribe by the Federal Transit Authority in 2005.

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MnDOT will provide the site work and new pavers for the parking lot.

The tribe is currently leasing the building from BNSF Railroad and is subleasing to Amtrak and Jefferson Bus Lines.

According to WE/DOT Director Burny Tibbetts, the planning team made a commitment to restore the depot as it looked some 100 years ago. They traveled to the Minnesota Historical Society to retrieve the original building plans.

The inside of the building will feature all new electrical, and geo-thermal heating and air conditioning. All interior and exterior finishes will also be restored.

In addition to Amtrak and Jefferson Bus Lines, the depot will also house a coffee shop with high-speed wireless internet, two high-scale Native American kiosks, a conference room that can be rented by the public, and display cases featuring White Earth's history.

Transportation hub

Once the construction is finished, the depot will be officially known as the White Earth Transit Station.

"White Earth Public Transit is coordinating with Becker County and Clay County Transit on routes," said Tibbetts. "A person from the reservation could literally ride all the way to Fargo." He also said a proposed trolley covering downtown Detroit Lakes will also make stops at the Station.

Tibbetts said people can see the history of the depot and construction updates through six 10-minute shows on TV 3 in Detroit Lakes. A DVD will be available at a later date.