News & Politics

5 Things Amtrak Wants to Change About Union Station

Will eminent domain give Amtrak full control of the station?

Amtrak is seeking to take control of DC’s Union Station through eminent domain, which it says will enable it to modernize and expand the facility. Union Station is owned by the US government, but most of the station has been subleased to Union Station Investco, a subsidiary of New York-based private real estate investment firm Ashkenazy Acquisition Corporation. Amtrak currently controls about 13.4 percent of the space, which includes the train concourse and the ticketing area, but it wants control over the entire property (except the parking garage).

According to a court filing, Amtrak has been trying to make repairs and changes to the station, but USI has repeatedly rejected Amtrak’s proposals. In response, Amtrak says it offered to buy the property from USI for $250 million, but the company didn’t accept their offer.

Here are five changes Amtrak says it would make if it does gain full control of the station.

Upgrade passenger amenities

Amtrak plans to upgrade the station’s concourse: new restrooms, increased accessibility for customers with disabilities, a new and expanded Metropolitan Lounge (what is now Club Acela), and more seating options with electrical outlets. Amtrak would also realign the boarding gates to improve passenger flow.

Make it easier to switch trains

Amtrak wants to expand the connecting corridor between MARC commuter trains and Amtrak trains to relieve passenger congestion in public and boarding areas. Amtrak will also work with WMATA to build a new staircase and entrance on First Street.

Repair the station’s lower levels

In the court papers, Amtrak says that the infrastructure that supports the lower levels of Union Station is “in serious need of repair or replacement.” The company wants to make repairs that will improve safety and reliability and reduce maintenance costs.

Enhance Union Station’s architectural details

Amtrak also wants to brighten the station with natural lighting, install new tools to help passengers navigate the station, and add architectural finishes to the concourse to blend it with the historic look of the station.

Give management of day-to-day operations to Amtrak

Since the passenger railroad would gain control over the management and operation of the station, Amtrak plans to conduct approximately $75 million worth of maintenance that it says has been deferred by USI due to insufficient funds. Amtrak also suggests it could better prevent graffiti and weather damage to the station without harming the historic design of the building—something Amtrak says USI failed to do after “white supremacist graffiti” was scrawled on the exterior of the station this January.

Damare Baker
Research Editor

Before becoming Research Editor, Damare Baker was an Editorial Fellow and Assistant Editor for Washingtonian. She has previously written for Voice of America and The Hill. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she studied international relations, Korean, and journalism.