The building’s corridors, concourses and platforms — many dating to the station’s 1907 opening — are regularly jammed during rush hour and major tourist events. The station’s overcrowded tracks hinder Amtrak and regional train operators from adding new trains despite growing demand.
But what the proposal lacks is a vision for financing the plan, which even in stages probably would require huge government funding commitments.
Joseph H. Boardman, Amtrak president and chief executive, said in an interview that the rail line is reimagining what it will take to make rail a vital, viable part of the region’s transportation infrastructure.
“The problem that we have is that we’ve got a lack of balance and investment in a mode that moves a lot of people, that is an environmentally responsible mode, and that changes the way that people are going to be able to travel in the future with the technology that is available today,” Boardman said.
Much of Union Station’s expansion would come below ground, where Amtrak plans to add new platforms, tracks and shopping, all of which would enjoy natural light from a 50-foot-wide, 100-foot-long glass-encased main concourse.
Six tracks dedicated to high-speed rail would be added. The high-speed lines could mean travel times as short as 94 minutes to New York City’s Penn Station by 2030 — that’s 66 minutes faster than today’s Acela trains.
District-based developer Akridge also plans a $1.5 billion complex of offices, residential towers and a hotel. The development, to be constructed on a deck built over the tracks behind Union Station, would link Capitol Hill to the NoMa neighborhood.
Dubbed Burnham Place after Union Station architect Daniel Burnham, the 3-million-square-foot project would include a rebuilt H Street bridge and an expanded street grid that would welcome pedestrians to a large new northern entrance to the station. Pedestrian access would be added on all sides of Union Station.
Akridge paid $10 million in 2006 for the right to build above the tracks. “We are now finally getting to see the potential for what Union Station should be,” said Matthew J. Klein, Akridge president.
The agency’s pitch for funding arrives during a period of sharp political disagreement over transportation investment, and Amtrak and its partners have said little about how to raise the $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion it estimates the upgrades would cost.
The federal budget for all surface transportation in recent years has been about $54 billion. As revenues from the long-time transportation funding source — the federal gas tax — have dwindled, some House Republicans have said the money should be devoted primarily to building and maintaining highways and bridges. A long-term transportation bill proposed in the House this year died after urban Republicans broke ranks in opposition to a plan to cut transit out of gas tax revenues.