The cost of something is going down.

The House Public Works subcommittee on public buildings and grounds yesterday approved a plan to repair Union Station-National Visitor Center that would cost $2.9 million less than a similar proposal it made last year.

One reason for the cost reduction may be that the old proposal was ridiculed overwhelmingly and then defeated on the House floor last December.

The latest effort to repair the crumbling structure would cost $36.1 million. When supporters of renovation asked the House for $39 million last year -- on top of the $44 million spent in the last decade -- the legislation was defeated 247 to 139.

But even a critic such as Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.) who dubbed the bill "the great train station robbery," conceded then that "something has to be done on this building on which all this money has been spent."

The money would be used to tear out the existing train terminal, which has been described as looking like a motel lobby; move the terminal back into the rear concourse; finish a partially constructed 1,400-car parking garage; make critical structural repairs in the 70-year-old building, and relocate the visitor center in less space.

The $2.9 million reduction in cost would come from redesign of the visitor center.