So what does $7 billion in improvements buy? The ambitious plan, tantalizing renderings of which can be seen in a slideshow accompanying the article, would expand the overcrowded station dramatically in order to triple passenger capacity and double the number of trains the station can accommodate.
"Much of Union Station's expansion would come below ground, where Amtrak plans to add new platforms, tracks and shopping, all of which would enjoy natural light from a 50-foot-wide, 100-foot-long glass-encased main concourse," note O'Connell and Halsey. The expansion would include the addition of six tracks dedicated to high-speed rail.
Planned to accompany the overhaul of the station is a $1.5 billion complex of offices, residential towers and a hotel to be built by developer Akridge. "The development, to be constructed on a deck built over the tracks behind Union Station, would link Capitol Hill to the NoMa neighborhood."
"Dubbed Burnham Place after Union Station architect Daniel Burnham, the 3-million-square-foot project would include a rebuilt H Street bridge and an expanded street grid that would welcome pedestrians to a large new northern entrance to the station."
Sounds great, right? When does construction start, you ask? According to O'Connell and Halsey, "what the proposal lacks is a vision for financing the plan, which even in stages probably would require huge government funding commitments."
Keep in mind, "the federal budget for all surface transportation in recent years has been about $54 billion."