Reimagining Washington, DC’s Union Station

Reimagining Union Station

The proposed expansion and redevelopment of Union Station, which could do for Washington what Grand Central Terminal did for New York a century ago — create a new commercial epicenter for the city and provide the transportation anchor for a regional economy, stretching from Richmond to Baltimore. At $10 billion in public and private investment, it would represent the region’s most important development initiative since the construction of Metro’s subway system….

If you’ve been to the renovated St. Pancras Station in London, or the spectacular Atocha station in Madrid, or even to the recently restored Grand Central, you have a sense of the world-class facility that Amtrak, the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. (USRC) and the developers at Akridge have in mind:

A seven-story-high train shed covered by a glass roof that lets in plenty of natural light. Wide spacious platforms between trains located on two levels of track. Elevated and underground passenger concourses, lined with shops and restaurants, providing easy access to subway, buses, taxis, streetcars, parking and street exits in all directions. Waiting areas, concierge stations, and electronic departure and arrival boards distributed throughout the station….

This new Union Station would go well beyond the ambitions of Daniel Burnham’s original Beaux-Arts masterpiece. Its footprint would span 10 square blocks — two blocks east to west, five blocks north to south, from the foot of Capitol Hill to K Street. And to accommodate the additional parking, the underground concourses, the new bus and Metro stations and new tracks for high-speed rail, the complex would extend five levels underground….

It speaks to the paucity of our civic imagination, and the small-mindedness of our politics, that simply to describe a project of such ambition is to invite the knowing smirks and raised eyebrows of those who will immediately recognize it as wholly incompatible with the current political and budgetary environment. It’s hard to imagine a project more likely to raise the tea party’s hackles than having federal and state taxpayers borrow billions of dollars to increase subsidized train service in and out of Washington.

At the same time, broader economic forces make Union Station expansion almost inevitable. As Doug Allen, the head of the Virginia’s commuter rail service, put it, “The question is how we do it, not whether we do it.”

With the era of exurban sprawl having run its course, people and jobs are moving back to more densely populated urban areas. That’s happening not just in Washington, but also in Boston, Austin, Seattle, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The only way these cities can accommodate such growth, and realize the economic efficiency that it will generate, is to dramatically improve their public transportation infrastructure and increase the density of land use around key public transportation nodes.

Dedicated volunteers keep Olympia/Lacey, WA station open

Centennial Train Station Volunteers Go Above and Beyond

Since its opening in May 1993, the Centennial Train Station, servicing Olympia and the greater Thurston County area, has operated entirely through the efforts of volunteers. And these volunteers are far from ordinary – they are some of the most dedicated, caring, happy individuals I have ever met.

As a writer from a popular travel website put it, “No one travelling by Amtrak arrives in Olympia to a closed station.” Even in the dead of the night, a devoted volunteer or two will often rise from his slumbers to open the station for a late train.

What’s more, these volunteers know they’re special. “We believe that this station provides some of the best service, if not the best service, in the U.S.” said Wally Fisher, one of the nine original volunteers who is still servicing the station over 21 years later. Talk about low turnover.

Sandpoint, ID Station Undergoing Renovation

Idaho’s Lone Amtrak Station Undergoing Renovation
Since 1997, when the Pioneer Route was discontinued in Southern Idaho, the Sandpoint station has been the only passenger rail stop in the state served by Amtrak, but the Gothic-style brick station—added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973—has not weathered the years well.

The building was closed to the public in 2009 after leaks were discovered in its roof. Since then, Amtrak passengers have had to wait on the open-air platform into the wee hours and often in cold, wet conditions.

After years of preservation efforts, that is about to change. The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that after negotiations between the city of Sandpoint, station owner Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway and Amtrak, work will begin this summer to renovate and reopen the depot.

Kent, OH rail depot in jeopardy


Kent — A symbol of this city’s iconic industrial roots is in jeopardy.

A former railroad depot with ties to the city’s early beginnings may be torn down if a private investor doesn’t come forward to save it.

But whether the building on West Main Street adjacent to a Carter Lumber facility, with its chipped red siding, dingy white doors, broken windows and weathered foundation, can actually be saved remains unclear.

The depot, which originally served a railroad connecting lucrative, late 19th century coal mines in southern Ohio with Cleveland’s Lake Erie ports, has changed hands many times since it was built in 1881 by the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway…The building was last used by Kent Feed and Supply, which closed for business last year….

Carter Lumber Co. acquired the property in 2012…Carter Lumber used part of the parcel to expand its outdoor storage yard. Then, cognisant of the 133-year-old building’s heritage, the company offered the structure to the city….

The company isn’t planning to raze the building just yet, Price said, but likely will if no one else comes forward to preserve it. He added while there has been some interest from at least one individual, who he declined to name, it’s uncertain if anyone will commit to saving or relocating it.

PRICE SAID he expects to know more in June.

Libby, MT provides hospitality for delayed Amtrak passengers

Train derailment brings laughs

A train derailment in Crossport, Idaho, left 235 Amtrak passengers stranded in Libby on Thursday morning.
“There’s worse places to be stuck,” Nico Lopez, 18, said while sitting on a park bench near the delayed train. “It’s pretty here. I just spent four months working in the Bakken. It’s nothing but rolling hills out there.”
Delayed passengers were surprisingly jovial, impressed by the small-town hospitality to which they awoke. Pam Zimmerman, director of Achievements Inc., which operates Park Side Thrift Store, noticed the train as she opened shop.
“It looked pretty darn inconvenient,” Zimmerman said. “We made coffee for them and got doughnuts and cookies from Rosauers. If my family was stranded, that’s how I would want them treated.”
Fishes & Loaves Café owner, Star Phillips, provided hot dogs, hamburgers and refreshments.
Amtrak conductor Jason Berg said Libby was the most helpful town of the 10 he has been stuck in during his five years on the job.
“The police and the Emergency Management Agency showed up and gave us a lift to get more ice and milk for the passengers,” Berg said. “Libby really has our back in this.”

Longview, TX opens renovated depot

City dedicates renovated depot, looks forward

Those gathered Saturday for the dedication of Longview’s historic train depot agreed it was the start of a new era for the city.
“If we all could come back here in 20 years, I guarantee you it would be a very different venue that you would be looking at. Because I believe this is the first step in the economic redevelopment of South Longview. This is how it starts. It doesn’t all happen in one fell swoop,” Joe McHugh, Amtrak’s vice president of government affairs, told about 250 people gathered for Saturday’s event.
The dedication ceremony marked the completion of a $2.2 million renovation at the depot off Mobberly Avenue.
The event was held in conjunction with National Train Day and included events across downtown, such as an antique car show and vintage movie screenings at the Longview Public Library.
At the depot, a part of the Longview Transportation Center, visitors participated in tours of the facility, an Amtrak exhibit train and a Greyhound Model Bus.

Senators want to rename D.C.’s train hub


Ronald Reagan’s name is already on a Washington area airport, so why not also name the train station for a former president?

That’s what Missouri Sens. Claire McCaskill (D) and Roy Blunt (R) proposed Thursday in a bill that would rename Washington’s Union Station for former president Harry S. Truman, who would have marked his 130th birthday on Thursday.

Naming the District’s train hub for an out-of-towner might give pause among locals, but Union Station, like many other large buildings in the city, is owned by the federal government, so Congress has naming rights. McCaskill and Blunt serve on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over such proposals.

U.S. Transportation secretary on hand for Denver Union Station Transit Center opening

Denver Business Journal

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was a featured speaker Friday at the ribbon cutting for Denver Union Station’s Transit Center.
“As the gateway to one of the nation’s fastest growing cities, Denver Union Station is not only transforming how the region moves, but it has transformed Denver’s economy by spurring nearly a billion dollars in private investment,” said Foxx, formerly the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Union Station’s $480 million redevelopment has been called a “game changer” by city officials like Mayor Michael Hancock, spurring over $1 billion in private investment.
The station will be the transit hub that will connect downtown Denver with the rest of the metro area and Denver International Airport.

Amtrak arrives at Union Depot in St. Paul for first time

Amtrak earlier this week marked the debut of service to Union Depot in St. Paul, Minn., with the arrival of the Empire Builder.

Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman was among transportation leaders who helped cut the ribbon for the first-ever Amtrak service to the downtown station.

“We know from experience that travel brings business — and that stations bring business to the surrounding community,” said Boardman in a prepared statement.

The historic station recently underwent a $243 million restoration to turn it into a multi-modal facility with funding from federal, state and local agencies.

Via Progressive Railroading