A TIP OF THE OLD red cap to one Keith Kelly
of Kansas City, Mo., who is about to tackle what has been Mission Impossible for armies of Washington bureaucrats, politicians and propagators of great ways to ruin a great railroad station. Mr. Kelly is the man tapped to oversee the federal government's attempt to dry out, rebuild and revive Union Station in the manner to which it was accustomed before the federal government's massive effort to make a mess of it years ago. Given the hideous history of this project-run-monumentally-amok, Mr. Kelly deserves all the support anybody can muster for his effort and a medal if it ever comes out right.
There's hope: Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole has made a point of her determination to bring the station back to its basic function as a convenient, attractive train terminal. And Mr. Kelly brings to the job one important strength: He actually remembers how the station looked in its heyday. "I first came through . . . in 1942," he recalls, noting that the facade was "an architectural triumph," and that the "inside was also beautiful and very, very busy."
Today, it is mostly a rain forest and canyon, camouflaging a secret transportation lair that is accessible only by safari. Mr. Kelly, who will be executive director-president of the new nonprofit Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, is ready to turn things around (or back, as it were); the corporation will be relying on $70 million supplied by Amtrak, and plans to hire an architectural firm, private developer and construction contractors for the restoration. Meanwhile, the Interior Department is doing repairs on the roof, skylights and drainage system; and the District is seeking bids for completion of a parking garage that has been hanging in space for years.
Hopes are to reopen the place in five years, which presumably is enough time to find the last passengers still wading through the dark canals or wandering around the bottom of the Pointless Pit that now disgraces the original entrance to the concourse. As passengers are wont to say, we can't wait.