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After more than a decade of development, design, and construction, the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction was dedicated on Sept. 6, 2003. Unmistakably noticeable from the New Jersey Turnpike, the four-story building accommodates both north-south and east-west bound rail lines and provides for future development.

A.B. engineering graduate Mark Sheeleigh ’84, partner at Brennan Beer Gorman Architects, was lead architect and head of the building design team for the $450 million project.

“The building is in the middle of meadowland and the only buildings around it are vast, long warehouses, so there wasn’t very much culture,” he says. “It was just swampy land to canoe in. We had to go back to what we could draw on from trains. We turned back to the golden age of rail and tried to make it a grand rail station.”

In his article on, Sheeleigh notes that “one of BBG’s primary goals was to create a public space that encourages efficient transfer for riders while conveying the sense of grandeur found in historic train stations.”

Located at the intersection of the turnpike, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Port Authority Trans-Hudson trains, and Main Line trains, the station is a central interchange and commercial location for transportation between Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City. The 300,000-square-foot building was constructed to handle the vibration and noise of the trains while exposing commuters to ample natural light via a decorative skylight and clerestory windows.

Sheeleigh says the complicated nature of the project required many years of work. Designs had to be altered on short notice because of technological advances and discontinued products, the addition of bus lines through the station, increased safety precautions resulting from Sept. 11, 2001, and a failed private development idea.

“The fact that the project went on for so long was quite unusual for us,” he says. “The endurance needed and the number of people involved presented challenges in keeping people on track.”

Environmental regulations provided other complications. Since the station was built on wetlands, over 30 permits and approvals were required. In addition, existing rails had to be realigned and construction had to be completed without disturbing the 400 passengers and freight trains making daily trips through the site.

Excellent professors who helped prepare him to handle challenges like these, he says, included Robert S. Mattison, Metzgar Professor and head of art, and George Panichas, professor and head of philosophy.

“A.B. engineering gave me a very broad base of engineering and economics and I cross-registered to take some architecture programs,” he says. “All of those things were able to come together. Architecture is a broad-based knowledge that comes together for the design of the building. My original foundation came from Lafayette.”

With over 10 family members among the ranks of alumni, including Tara Glock Sheeleigh ’90 and father Matthias Sheeleigh ’50, he says his interest in the College developed at an early age.

“I became interested in Lafayette from going to Lafayette football games from 1968 on. They are some of my earliest memories and that was very important to me when I was looking at schools,” he says.

Sheeleigh is a member of the American Institute of Architects, Construction Specifications Institute, and National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and is a trustee of the Madison (N.J.) Public Library. He graduated with a master of architecture from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles