Washington DC Union Station Expansion

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Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby Jeff Smith » Wed Oct 14, 2015 10:36 am

Biz Journals Washington

Expansion plans?

Amtrak forced to defend decision to condemn a Northeast D.C. office building

Amtrak has condemned a commercial office building in Northeast D.C. as it gears up for a major expansion project at Union Station nearby — and the move has left the property's owner crying foul.

That's because Amtrak gave what the building's owner considers an overly vague reason for using eminent domain to take the roughly 113,000-square foot Railway Express building at 900 Second St. NE along with an adjacent lot. Both are located next to the railroad tracks just north of Union Station. Fluorine LLC argues in new court filings that the $35 million Amtrak offered for the property before filing for eminent domain was less than the income-generating office building is worth and that Amtrak has failed to show it had the legal authority to take it.

The dispute comes as Amtrak is planning a major overhaul of Union Station designed to increase capacity and speed for the southern-most stop in its busy Northeast Corridor. The D.C.-based rail service provider claims in court documents it needs the building and adjacent land to support that work. The rail service needs to acquire the roughly 3.4 acres of land to ensure it has access to more than 40 electrical and communication easements tied to the property as well as an electrical substation on the property.

Amtrak Deputy General Counsel Dennis Moore, in a condemnation complaint he filed July 13 with the U.S. District Court in D.C., also claimed Amtrak needed to take ownership of the property to ensure its continued access to the adjacent rail lines "and other railroad facilities, space for additional railroad personnel and activities relating to growing rail ridership, construction staging, utility placement and flexibility, the placement of electrical substations, movement of the existing substation, resources and other reconstruction, repair, rehabilitation and repurposing efforts."
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby west point » Wed Oct 14, 2015 2:32 pm

No big deal. Amtrak will get the property just a matter of how much Amtrak will have to pay. According to another web site congress has given Amtrak eminent domain powers.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby afiggatt » Fri Oct 16, 2015 10:31 am

Jeff Smith wrote:Expansion plans?

The plans to build a new concourse and a revamped DC Union Station that were unveiled 3 years ago appear to be moving ahead, albeit slowly and to some extent, quietly. The proposal has been labeled Washington Union Station's 2nd Century plan with a page on the nec.amtrak.com website. The Union Station Redevelopment Corporation has awarded study and engineering design contracts since the release of the 2012 Master Plan concept.

The more immediate component is the expansion of the passenger concourse area at WAS which is supposed to start work on this fall with relocation of mechanical equipment, Amtrak Police and other support service facilities. 2 page PDF Fact Sheet on the DC Union Station Concourse Expansion Program. If the schedule doesn't slip, construction of the new concourse expansion is to start in the summer of 2016.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby west point » Fri Oct 16, 2015 7:06 pm

Have not seen the figures but a comparison of how many passengers passed thru during WW-2 to now and the future would be most informative. Have seen many statements that Union station has more per day than PRR ever had but have seen no hard figures.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby gokeefe » Fri Apr 08, 2016 3:32 pm

Plans for the concourse expansion work starting this summer appear to be moving forward per this article from the Washington Post.

Amtrak plans to begin building a new $50 million Union Station concourse this summer that it said would double the space for passengers and improve circulation throughout the station by 2019.

Union Station passengers have long complained that the waiting area for trains there, the second busiest in the country for the rail service, is dark, cramped and difficult to maneuver.

Despite the proximity to train tracks, some the station’s 37 million annual passengers have difficulty knowing which direction to head to catch their train or make connections to commuter lines, Metro, buses, taxis or the new D.C. Streetcar.

In a design Amtrak released Tuesday, the station’s north wall on the concourse level will be pushed back to add another 20,000 square feet of space and bring new restrooms, boarding gates, seating, an Amtrak police station and ClubAcela lounge. Passengers would be able to look out on the train tracks through a glass wall.


Having used Washington Union Station recently for long distance travel and trips I can readily testify to the cramped conditions on the concourses. The station as redesigned in 1988 really did not foresee the enormous increase in passenger rail travel that has since taken place. The waiting areas at the gates in particular were very cramped and had poor pedestrian traffic flow. It reminded me in some ways of many U.S. airports in the very early 90's before renovations took place. National and Philadelphia in particular come to mind.

These much needed improvements will greatly improve pedestrian flows through the station and ensure that the agencies serving Washington Union Station retain the ability to continue to increase service to the terminal. This is a particularly important step to support the increase in Acela service likely to take place within 5 years when the new high speed trainsets are put in service by Amtrak.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby afiggatt » Sat Apr 09, 2016 9:00 am

gokeefe wrote:Plans for the concourse expansion work starting this summer appear to be moving forward per this article from the Washington Post.

The Washington Post article and the related Amtrak press release (AMTRAK ADVANCES WASHINGTON UNION STATION 2ND CENTURY PLAN) were published prior to the public information meeting on March 30 for the EIS and design studies for the station and Burnham Place project.

The Post article has a rendering of the Phase 1 expanded concourse which shows the new location of the Acela Lounge as a new level above the gates. Looks like there would be direct access from the Acela Lounge down to the platforms. Amtrak has $50 million in place for the near term concourse expansion. Wonder how much of the funds is coming from the annual ADA compliance funds, MARC, VRE, USRC, DC versus how much Amtrak is paying from NEC capital funds.

The March 30 display boards and presentations are available on the FRA website for the EIS and design studies: Washington Union Station Expansion Project. Two interesting platform and track diagrams in there.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby gokeefe » Sun Apr 10, 2016 7:55 am

Its good to see these improvements being implemented at Union Station. The "Claytor Concourse" in particular is desperately in need of renovations and expansion. Without those changes it is at risk of becoming "Penn Station DC" ... a Washington version of the New York terminal ... cramped, overcrowded and stuffy.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby gokeefe » Sun Nov 27, 2016 5:04 pm

One of the related stories to the proposed expansion of Union Station is the continued increase in passenger volumes. While not addressing this growth directly this article from Architectural Digest captures the completion of design changes that point to the underlying story:

For the first time in half a century, managers say, the Main Hall of Daniel Burnham’s Beaux Arts train station is free of all construction-related scaffolding and other obstructions and can be viewed as the architect intended.

For once, in other words, there is no major repair work underway, no blocked-off construction zones to walk around to get to the train. Also missing are the Center Café and two indoor planters that were added in previous renovations and took up much of the space under the barrel-vaulted ceiling.

“Today, Washington Union Station reveals a restored, historic Main Hall,” said leaders of the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. (USRC), steward of the building at 50 Massachusetts Avenue N. E., in a statement dated May 9. “Covered for the past four years in scaffolding as rehabilitation work was underway, the historic space is now unobstructed, as originally designed, for the first time in almost 50 years.”


In the 80s and early 90s when passenger trains were almost treated as a sideshow the square footage of the Great Hall wasn't needed to adequately accommodate pedestrian traffic. Since that time Amtrak has experienced record setting growth in passenger traffic on the Northeast Corridor, and in particular between Washington, DC and New York. My perception of the driving force behind the changes to the Great Hall is that pedestrian traffic is reaching a point where the station needs the additional square footage.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby east point » Sun Nov 27, 2016 10:54 pm

gokeefe wrote:One of the related stories to the proposed expansion of Union Station is the continued increase in passenger volumes. “]

In the 80s and early 90s when passenger trains were almost treated as a sideshow the square footage of the Great Hall wasn't needed to adequately accommodate pedestrian traffic. Since that time Amtrak has experienced record setting growth in passenger traffic on the Northeast Corridor, and in particular between Washington, DC and New York. My perception of the driving force behind the changes to the Great Hall is that pedestrian traffic is reaching a point where the station needs the additional square footage.


We have not seen comparisons of passenger traffic during WW-2 and today. The big difference in passenger counts is MARC and VRE. Have no idea during PRR times how many passengers were thru to the B&O, C&O, SOU RR, RF&P, ACL, SAL. Those route segments have all had a damatic reduction since WW-2. But again we do not know how many originated at WASH ?

The rush hour nature of MARC and VRE certainly calls for the expansion especially having more than one location for entrance and exit. Passenger counts for these RRs would seem constrained by lack of equipment and even if they had more equipment there is at present no place to lay over equipment during the day. e
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby jp1822 » Sun Nov 27, 2016 11:19 pm

west point wrote:Have not seen the figures but a comparison of how many passengers passed thru during WW-2 to now and the future would be most informative. Have seen many statements that Union station has more per day than PRR ever had but have seen no hard figures.


This was Washington DC "Union" Station - you had not only the PRR using this station, but also the B&O, RF&P, through trains to the south and north. I mean the activity had to be phenomenal at one time, as nearly all north/south trains originated, terminated, or passed through this station. Weren't there more "through" tracks at one time? The tunnel operations were limited, but those through tracks had to be packed to the gills with trains coming and going. Anything terminating from the north (particularly anything coming in on the B&O and PRR) could use the upper deck of tracks. And then there were through cars that were off loaded and put on trains sitting on the through tracks. I have a hard time believing this train is in its heyday now, even with MARC and VRE.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby Greg Moore » Sun Nov 27, 2016 11:22 pm

I'm pretty sure that the number of through tracks is the same, but the upper level definitely has a few (3?) fewer tracks.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby Station Aficionado » Mon Nov 28, 2016 8:44 am

On the lower level, 21 has been removed (a bunch of electrical/mechanical cabinets now occupy the space). 22 is only used as a loco run-around track/parking space.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby adamj023 » Mon Nov 28, 2016 10:44 am

I have no problem in station expansion in general if it means more PRIVATE SECTOR job growth. However, Amtrak is federal and unfortunately the federal government employees tends to overwhelmingly use Amtrak. Airline service is more receptive to the private sector. I wish we could privatize Acela as it would be very lucrative financially including higher speed trains at a faster pace and more revenue for the owners and employees.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby gokeefe » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:20 pm

Amtrak has 75% of the air-rail market between New York and Washington DC. As much as I'm sure the federal government would love to be so big that their employees constituted a substantial share of that ridership they are not anywhere close.

Federal employees (other than Vice President Biden! :-D ) probably constitute a very small share of ridership on Amtrak between Washington DC and New York. If anything their numbers are probably over represented on air services because of the travel habits and booking patterns developed by federal travel managers which tend to be air and car rental centric.
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Re: Washington DC Union Station Expansion

Postby John_Perkowski » Mon Nov 28, 2016 12:40 pm

Admin Note:

This is not the place to discuss the mix of riders on Amtrak in the Corridor. If you desire to do that, open a new thread.

Shall we move along back to the topic at hand?
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