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A first look at plans for the new Union Station in D.C.

New renderings show the major overhaul being proposed for the 115-year-old train hub

Rendering of the new train hall planned at Union Station as part of a multibillion dollar redevelopment. (Federal Railroad Administration via U.S. Commission of Fine Arts)
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As federal studies advance on the multibillion-dollar redevelopment of Washington’s Union Station, the Federal Railroad Administration has unveiled more details of its vision to turn the decrepit station into a modern, multimodal transit hub.

Renderings presented Thursday to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts offered a glimpse of the transformation planned by 2040 for Amtrak’s second-busiest station.

They show a spacious, light-filled atrium with large skylights and soaring ceilings. The overhaul will add wide rail platforms, an attached bus terminal and updated concourses lined with shops and restaurants that provide easy access to Metrorail, buses, taxis, ride-shares, streetcars and parking. The station’s iconic main hall will be preserved.

The FRA last month announced revisions to key aspects of the proposed redevelopment, eliminating a six-story garage, significantly reducing parking and relocating the parking area to a new underground facility. The changes also include a major reconfiguration of the station’s bus terminal to align with a new train hall.

Union Station overhaul removes parking spaces, adds underground facility

Anthony Williams, chief executive of the Federal City Council and a former D.C. mayor, said the revised concept “effectively responds” to community concerns, praising it as a “bold vision” that will drive economic development.

“The new modern, vitalized facility will allow for the transformation of Union Station — the Nation’s Station — into a world-class destination for both domestic and international travelers as well as an economic hub for the city,” Williams said in a statement.

The FRA presented the new renderings to the Commission of Fine Arts, which is responsible for reviewing public buildings in the District and has an advisory role on architectural aspects of the project. It will also eventually approve final proposals.

The project is expected to cost about $10 billion, although the latest revisions are likely to increase that price tag.

The decision to move parking underground frees up aboveground space that will be used to create a park area and plazas, while directing some pickup and drop-off traffic below ground, reducing congestion off Columbus Circle. Additional pickup space is planned at grade level, off H Street NE.

Project supporters say the new design improves vehicular access to the station, as well as pedestrian and bike connectivity. They say the bus facility, planned above the train tracks with an easy connection to the train hall, is better integrated with the station.

The project will allow for a separate private development in the airspace above the train tracks. Developer Akridge is planning to add up to a dozen buildings — a mix of residential, office, hotel and cultural uses — along 15 acres of air rights it owns from north of Union Station to K Street NE. The estimated $3 billion project, known as Burnham Place, is contingent upon the station’s redevelopment.

David Tuchmann, senior vice president of development at Akridge, which supported adjustments to the station’s parking, pickup and drop-off zones, said the revised plan “really nails it.” He said the plans can move forward at a time when the federal government is placing increased attention on transportation investments.

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“Everything appears to be aligning now, both for the station project and for Burnham Place,” he said.

The proposed expansion ranks as a top contender in the Northeast Corridor for federal infrastructure money through the law signed last year by President Biden. About $66 billion is earmarked for rail over five years, while the project also could use millions of additional dollars available for transit and other infrastructure projects.

“This project will require funding partners prepared to invest,” the FRA said in a statement. “FRA will continue to engage with stakeholders, including the District, to advance planning and funding for this important multimodal transportation hub.”

The project is proposed by Amtrak and the Union Station Redevelopment Corp., which manages and operates Union Station under a long-term lease from the FRA.

Dennis Newman, Amtrak’s executive vice president for strategy, planning and accessibility, said the overhaul would boost passenger capacity and enhance rider experience. Some facilities date back to the station’s 1907 opening.

The FRA earlier this month announced new leadership at the Union Station Redevelopment Corp.. Doug Carr, who has overseen major redevelopment projects in the New York area, will take over as president and chief executive of the nonprofit. Former president and chief executive Beverley Swaim-Staley, who led the group for a decade, is retiring. The transition will take place this summer, officials said.

Federal and local officials say Carr’s success in redevelopment projects will serve Washington well. He worked on transforming the James A. Farley Post Office Building in Manhattan into a mixed-use train hub now known as the Moynihan Train Hall.

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“Washington Union Station is a historic transportation hub poised for even greater growth,” Deputy U.S. Transportation Secretary Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. She said “Carr will ensure the station best serves the D.C. community while advancing the next century of transportation progress.”

Carr said he is “honored to be given the responsibility to envision and deliver the future of Washington Union Station.”

The FRA paused the project’s environmental review for a year to amend the design, which was widely criticized for keeping the station too car-centric. The upgraded plan is expected to be released this summer for public comment, with a final decision on how to proceed with the redevelopment next year. After that, the project could enter the design phase, possibly followed by more than a decade of construction.