Thursday 2 August 2012
News from Members

USA: AMTRAK to transform Washington Union Station into world-class transportation hub

Master Plan revitalises historic station, increases capacity, improves quality of passenger experience and adds vitality to regional economy

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On 25 July Amtrak released a Master Plan that offers a visionary and practical approach to revitalise the terminal at Washington Union Station. Developed in coordination with other stakeholders including U.S. Department of Transportation, Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC), Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Virginia Railway Express, Maryland Transit Administration, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Akridge, it lays the groundwork for an expanded and greatly improved intermodal station that will increase capacity to accommodate future service expansion, deliver the highest quality passenger experience and provide robust support to local and regional economic growth. The Master Plan envisions dramatically improved facilities that are modern, safe, and secure which will accommodate three times as many passengers and twice as many trains, all within the same footprint and preserving Union Station’s historic architectural design.

“Washington Union Station is an integral part of the Northeast transportation network, facing urgent capacity issues and a need to expand to support increasing ridership growth across all services,” said Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman. “This plan will transform the station into a world-class transportation hub to serve the region and the mobility needs of generations of passengers yet to come.”

“Today’s plan ensures that Union Station will continue to serve as the gateway to our nation’s Capital, providing growing numbers of passengers with even greater transportation options,” said Deputy Secretary of Transportation and USRC Chairman John Porcari. “The Department of Transportation is committed to Union Station’s future, both as an important part of the local economy and of the President’s vision for a revitalised Northeast Corridor.”

The heart of the plan is the creation of a new train shed that will welcome passengers to the nation’s capital, bring natural light to station spaces and better organise the connections to Amtrak, commuter rail, transit and other transportation services. New passenger concourses, along with a series of new street entrances, will be seamlessly integrated with the existing station, enabling passengers and visitors to easily access the entire station complex and adjoining neighbourhoods while experiencing improved amenities and expanded retail opportunities.

The estimated cost for the Master Plan is between $6.5 and $7.5 billion ($2012). In addition to creating a world-class facility with ample capacity for future high-speed, intercity and commuter rail service growth, these investment levels would generate enormous benefits to the city and region through job creation, increased tax revenues, and enhanced economic development. It will also help to create significant public spaces that can be enjoyed for decades and bring together the adjoining neighbourhoods that are now cut-off from one another.

Importantly, the plan also makes possible the accommodation of tracks, platforms and concourses to support a new Next Generation High-Speed Rail (NextGen HSR) concourse below the existing station platforms to keep pace with the growth projections and plans outlined in the recently released The Amtrak Vision for the Northeast Corridor: 2012 Update Report. This future lower-level concourse could allow for a potential NextGen HSR extension south of Washington to connect with the proposed Southeast HSR Corridor.

The Master Plan creates a framework for progressive capital investment with a phased construction approach to be accomplished incrementally over 15 to 20 years, providing numerous local, regional and national benefits, and creating an improved station that will benefit millions of rail passengers, transit riders, area workers and residents, tourists and the public. It is estimated to generate a total of $14.3 billion ($2012) in regional economic benefit through direct construction expenditures and other related economic impacts.

In addition, the Master Plan includes a public-private partnership to build three million square feet of mixed-use development for Burnham Place, which is envisioned as a major commercial, retail and residential centre. Since purchasing the air rights over the Union Station rail yard in 2006, Akridge has worked in close partnership with Amtrak and USRC for nearly four years on planning and design of the project.
“This project will be transformative for the entire Washington region,” said Akridge Chairman Chip Akridge. “It will touch residents and visitors alike by creating an iconic transportation hub that integrates housing, offices and neighbourhood shopping. Akridge is proud to be part of the Amtrak plan and looks forward to making this vision a reality.”

About Washington Union Station

Washington Union Station was designed by Daniel Burnham and opened in 1907. The station is the second busiest in the Amtrak system, serving providing service to the Northeast Corridor via Acela Express and Northeast Regional Service and eight Amtrak long-distance and regional trains. In addition, it serves as the anchor for MARC and Virginia Railway Express commuter service, and provides connections to Metro transit and multiple bus services along with access to two bicycle facilities. The station will soon provide service to the DC Streetcar line that is currently under construction. Today, the station is currently operating beyond its capacity, serving 100,000 passenger trips and 200 trains per day.

(Source: Amtrak)

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View of the historic station, train shed and air rights development from the southwest. Image courtesy of Akridge/SBA (© 2012 National Railroad Passenger Corporation. All Rights Reserved)
Central Concourse as viewed from the south showing waiting areas, reconstructed tracks and platforms, the first class lounge & retail opportunities (© 2012 National Railroad Passenger Corporation. All Rights Reserved)
(Above) New train shed as seen from H Street. (Lower) The Concourse A looking northwest showing the waiting areas, skylights and mezzanine bridges (© 2012 National Railroad Passenger Corporation. All Rights Reserved)