Unveiling the $8.8 Billion Updated Expansion Plan for Washington DC’s Union Station

by Laurie Baratti
Last updated at 5:35 PM ET on Sun May 14, 2023

Federal Railroad Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released this week a revised concept of redevelopment of Washington D.C.’s historic Union Station. The station was completed in 1908, more than 100 years ago. The multi-billion dollar expansion of Washington D.C.’s historic multimodal transit hub, which was first completed in 1908, would be the city’s first major infrastructure project since the 1990s.

The FRA, as the federal agency in charge of the project, released late Friday a nearly 300 page Supplemental Draft Environment Impact Statement (SDEIS), revealing the impact on the newly updated Preferred Alternative, Alternative F, and bringing the federal environmental studies and reviews closer to completion.

Washington Union Station Expansion Project, if approved, would be a massive project that wouldn’t be completed for nearly two decades. The construction costs are estimated at $8.8 billion. This does not include the approval, assessment and design phases which are expected to take many years.

The proposed modernization project will see the second busiest intercity hub in the country, which is currently the case, completely transformed by 2040. Infrastructure improvements would include the addition of 30 foot-wide passenger platforms and a new train station, as well as a concourse with updated retail outlets and restaurants, and a bus terminal. The station’s main hall, which is 115 years old and was designated as a historical landmark in 1964, will be preserved in full.

A previous draft of the Union Station Expansion project (USEP), which was first drafted three years ago but put on hold because of the pandemic outbreak, was criticised for being too car-centric due to its inclusion of a multilevel parking garage. This revised version (Alternative F), which includes a pick-up/drop-off area underground, as well as more integrated access for buses, bikes and pedestrians, is far less car-centric.

Washington Union Station is a multi-modal hub that serves 37 million people in the D.C. Metro Area each year. It links multiple modes of transportation, including Amtrak trains, the Maryland Area Regional Commuter and Virginia Railway Express rail lines, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Metrorail system, local and intercity buses, the DC Streetcar Network, as well as local for-hire vehicles such taxis and rideshare options.

DC Metro Area officials and railroad officials hope to modernize a gateway they call a “critical gateway” to the nation’s capital, and increase passenger capacity for the Northeast Corridor. The Washington Post reported the updated proposal as the Northeast Corridor’s top candidate for infrastructure development funding via a law signed in 2021 by President Biden.

Last week, 15 Congresspersons including the National Capital Region delegation sent a letter urging the Biden administration to provide prompt funding for the project and approve an expedited schedule. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC and her signatories stated in a press release that the proposed expansion of the station would more than double it’s current capacity.

Congresswoman Nortonsaid, “Union Station, located five blocks away from the U.S. Capitol and serving as a gateway to the District of Columbia, has welcomed more passengers per day in the past than Reagan National Airport or Dulles International Airport.” Union Station is also the hub for connecting East Coast rail routes to the north and the south.

The FRA fact sheet on the Washington Union Station Expansion project outlines the following benefits:

Growth in ridership projected to 2040
Amtrak – 95 percent

— MARC: 150%

— VRE: 250 per cent

Intercity Buses: 50%

Multi-modal access and capacity enhanced
Accessibility and American Disabilities Act accessibility, as well as more efficient train operations.
There is more space to improve the experience of passengers and their safety.






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