Amtrak Releases Master Plan for Union Station

Rendering via Amtrak Master Plan

From a press release:

Amtrak is releasing a Master Plan today that offers a visionary and practical approach to revitalize 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.

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 organize 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 neighborhoods 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 also will help to create significant public spaces that can be enjoyed for decades and bring together the adjoining neighborhoods 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 impact.

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 center. 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.

See full plan in PDF below:


34 Comment

  • Amazing.

    But, it’ll be a cold day in hell before Congress funds $7 billion for a non-road/bridge infastructure project in an area where the residents can’t vote.

  • Saw this story on the WaPo site and boy did it bring out the crazies in the comments section!

  • in the end it’ll be a glass overhang with an Amtrak sign slapped on it

  • Yeah, our DC gov historic board crazies will take this interesting design and make it bland and hideous.

  • binpetworth

    Personally, I really like Union Station’s Great Hall and front exterior architecture as it is now. It fits nicely with the rest of the Hill area. Wouldn’t mind seeing upgrades inside, especially to the train ticketing and waiting areas, but am not really into this glass architecture that looks like every rail station in central Europe and will seem dated within a decade.

    • This is proposed for the North side, where there is now just train yard and equipment storage.

  • Outrageous.. 6.5 to 7.5 billion; someone is smoking the crack pipe. That is the equivalent of 2-3 silver line extensions, 9 Springfield mixing bowl projects, or 8 convention centers.

    Someone is truly insane to even suggest such a number.

    • The silver line extension is set to cost in excess of $5 billion… However, more importantly I don’t think you get what the idea of this project is. This would not be $7b to simply expand access to Amtrak but to provide a sorely needed multi-modal transit center as well as amenities and improvements for the surrounding area and an attractive transport hub for the metropolitan region. Over 32 million people use the Station every year, transportation trends predict this number will increase significantly in the years to come. Union Station is poorly equipped to handle this expansion, much less integrate existing transportation options (e.g. Amtrak) with new services (e.g. street car) and expanded services (e.g. Metro). It is not YET clear where the entirety of this funding (spread across about two decades) will come from, however as history has demonstrated, although the cost of undertaking well-thought-out and designed transportation projects is expensive, the cost of doing nothing (or making superficial upgrades) is prohibitively more expensive. With infrastructure, you get what you pay for.

  • there must be enough private interest, with all that residential/retail space going up, to finance something like this right? would be great if they released more details about how the money will flow… but that level of plan detail probably doesn’t exist yet. looks like they are still in the “glossy pamphlet” stage.

  • I like how the plans show them using Acela in 2030.

    • Why wouldn’t they? There are hoping the next generation high-speed trains will be in place by then (DC-NYC in 90 minutes).

  • Anything that gets rid of that horribly labrynthian parking garage and unstable H street bridge is good in my book. I hope they also clean out the rats in the food court too. It looks weird seeing trains parked on the second floor just behind seating areas though, that wont be good if train brakes fail.

  • From the always excellent Market Urbanism twitter feed:

    Hope @TommyWells is willing to be a real transit advocate & tell Amtrak to come back when it has a serious plan, not an embarrassing $$ grab. Let’s review some numbers, shall we? Tokyo-Osaka has 6 dedicated HSR tracks in most stations, same as Amtrak wants for DC Union Station. So hey, sounds good – Japan has great rail, and we want it too! BUT…Tokyo-Osaka saw 151 million passengers in 2007. The Acela, on the other hand, saw 3.2 million in 2010. In other words, Amtrak wants the same infrastructure for DC Union Station as a system that carries literally FIFTY TIMES what it does! Even under the most optimistic scenario – Acela traffic increasing by 1,000% – this makes no sense.

  • Wow..lots of negativity here on what could be a great plan for DC. The Burnham Place project is already a go…air rights were purchased and plans are in the making. If they add more Amtrak potential in this, it will be a good thing. I’d definitely support more rail options for DC. The city is growing, the region is growing, and our dependence on airlines will be easily replaced with better rail options.

  • Not commenting on the design — the imagery on this Amtrak proposal is quite fantastic!

    Does anyone know where I could get renderings like these done?

    • Will cost you a bit of $$$ because they have to create a working structure, but generally anywhere that does CAD Design in DC can do renderings like this.

  • Howsabout they just focus on getting the trains to not break down and rails that can handle high speed trains. I don’t give a hoot what the terminal looks like. I want to ride at 212mph from NYC to DC.
    Seriously, Japan has had this technology for 30+ years, whats the hold up.

    • The rails between DC and NY, basically. I took the train to Boston in May for the first time in years and it was a slow experience…mainly because there are long stretches where the railroad corridor passes through some very dense areas, often with development (houses) right up against the tracks. Building a track which is level and smooth enough for HSR to get up to speed and where it’s safe to run something through at 200+MPH is tricky in that area. Basically, after you hit Philly, things are really clogged up all the way to Boston. Baltimore to DC is OK.

      • Well, that was the explanation I got from a guy who is a bit of a railroad fanatic (restores old cars, owns a few). I can see where the stops would be difficult, and I do recall the area just out of Delaware being pretty open, now that you mention it. Still, there were a lot of stops…and north of NYC, forget it!

        I do quibble with people who insist that even the regular train is too slow. My recollection was that it took me just under four hours on the northeast regional to get into NY from Union Station, and that was with a body-on-the-track delay south of Philly. Sure actual on-board train time is longer than on-board flight time, but when you add back in Airport/TSA time, it’s pretty close, and a lot more comfortable.

  • $7.5 Billion, no funding.


  • Here is an interesting article on how to get almost high speed trains for fraction of the cost.

  • I love trains, but Amtrak tickets are just not price competitive compared with almost any other mode of transpotation. Also, aside from Acela, they are unreliable too.

    • Acela is even more expensive than Amtrak, and not that much faster. I love taking the train because you get so much room, and there’s cafe service, but Megabus is cheap, has better wi-fi, and that early ticket bonus where you can get $1 tix. Can’t afford Amtrak on my student budget.

  • Wow. That’s a pimple on the ass of Satan ugly. Completely inappropriate architecturally considering the neighborhood.

    • You mean NoMa, the neighborhood immediately north of Union Station, right? It would actually be the architectural gem of the neighborhood.

      Obviously funding will be a challenge, but those shooting this idea down as if they know something the designers don’t are just full of themselves. And probably boring to boot.

  • Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth Like a genuine, Bona fide, Electrified, Six-car Monorail! What’d I say?

  • We will all be dead by the time this project is done. So, I see no need for the debate.

  • That glass is ugly! I also bet it will kill thousands of migratory birds in window collisions!

  • Honestly, it’s not even the speed that keeps me off the train. It’s the price. If they used some of this money to find a way to make the train a wee bit more affordable, I’d visit Philly, New York, etc. every other weekend. But at these prices, I might as well just hop on Jet Blue.

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