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Amtrak Unveils $7B Vision To Revamp Union Station

Plan makes no mention of financing

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An artists's rendering of the Central Concourse of a revamped Union Station, showing waiting areas, reconstructed tracks and platforms, a first class lounge.
Amtrak
An artists's rendering of the Central Concourse of a revamped Union Station, showing waiting areas, reconstructed tracks and platforms, a first class lounge.

Amtrak unveiled its $7 billion master plan to transform Union Station in Washington, D.C. from an aging, over-capacity station that dates to 1907 to a modern transportation hub of high speed rail that will double the number of trains and triple the number of passengers in gleaming, glass-encased halls at a press conference at Union Station Wednesday.

A truly modern transportation hub

The revamp would involve more than just aesthetics. Amtrak’s plans to make Union Station a high-speed rail hub envision trains bolting at more than 200 miles per hour, cutting the trip from D.C. to New York City to about 90 minutes. The high speed rail would take someone from Washington to Boston in about three hours.

The District would also benefit from the massive overhaul of one of the busiest stations in the country through job creation, increased tax revenues, and economic development. It all looks beautiful on paper now, but will take as many as two decades to be realized.

Missing from the images of modern concourses that were put on display at a Wednesday press conference were any plans to finance the project, which will take 15 to 20 years to complete over four phases.

"You got to have a vision to get anything done. If you don't have a vision or a plan of where you are going, you are not going to get anything funded," said Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman.

Federal money a big part

Boardman said he is confident the federal government will come through with a significant portion of the financing. "When you build highways you can expect to get 50 to 80 percent of the funding," Boardman said. "When you do a transit system, you can expect that same kind of percentage."

Phase 1 is scheduled to start next year with improvements to existing concourses, two new tracks and platforms. Later phases will involve the construction of below ground platforms, tracks and shopping space that will be naturally lit.

"You can't ask for the funding until you have the vision," said John Porcari, a deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation. "Today is about the vision that will serve this country here at Union Station for the next 50 years. You get to that by having bite-sized segments of projects that we can fund one at a time. The federal government has been a funding partner. We believe the private sector can and will be."

Also unveiled Wednesday was a proposal by a private developer to make over the neighborhood around Union Station with 3 million square feet of office, residential, hotel, and parking space.

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