UPDATED 6:30 p.m EST (Washington, D.C. -- WAMU) A wavy roof and shimmering glass atriums would join the stately dome of Washington, D.C.’s Union Station if the new $7 billion master plan from Amtrak comes to be. The proposal would convert Washington, D.C.’s main transit terminal from an aging, over-capacity station that dates to 1907 into a modern transportation hub of high-speed rail that will double the number of trains and triple the number of passengers in gleaming, glass-encased halls.
At a press conference at Union Station Wednesday, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said the project will be completed in four phases over the next 15 to 20 years in order to minimize disruption to northeast corridor customers at the station.
The massive overhaul of one of the busiest stations in the country – 100,000 passenger trips daily – is also designed to benefit the city and region through job creation, increased tax revenues, and economic development. It all looks beautiful on paper now, but it remains unclear if the plan will actually come to be.
Missing from the images of modern concourses that were put on display at the press conference were any concrete plans to finance the project.
“You got to have a vision to get anything done. If you don’t have a vision or a plan of where you are going, you are not going to get anything funded,” said Boardman, who stressed that he is confident the federal government will come through with a significant portion of the financing.
“When you build highways you can expect to get 50 to 80 percent of the funding,” Boardman said. “When you do a transit system you can expect that same kind of percentage."
Phase 1 is scheduled to start next year with improvements to existing concourses, two new tracks and platforms. Subsequent phases will involve the construction of below ground platforms, tracks and shopping space that will be naturally lit.
“Today is about the vision that will serve this country here at Union Station for the next 50 years,” said John Porcari, a deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation. “You get to that by having bite-sized segments of projects that we can fund one at a time. The federal government has been a funding partner. We believe the private sector can and will be.”
Amtrak’s plans to make Union Station a high-speed rail hub envision trains bolting at more than 200 miles per hour, cutting the trip from D.C. to New York City to about 90 minutes. The high speed rail would take someone from Washington to Boston in about three hours. Read our summary of the full Northeast corridor high-speed rail plan here, including renderings of the New York station upgrade plans.
Also unveiled Wednesday was a proposal by a private developer to make over the neighborhood around Union Station with three million square feet of office, residential, hotel, and parking space.