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For DC and NY, Efforts to Improve Rail Stations Take Opposite Tracks

While the decades long effort to augment and improve New York's atrocious Penn Station have stalled, D.C. is moving ahead with plans to expand Union Station and redevelop the land above its tracks. Fred A. Bernstein looks at the two projects.
September 18, 2012, 10am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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First the good news: with the purchase of the air rights over Union Station's train yard by developer Akridge, a project to build a 3 million square-foot mixed use development and build "a vast new, glass-roofed train shed" adjacent to the elegant Daniel Burnham-designed station seem set to proceed. 

A 3-hour Acela train ride to the north, "plans for replacing New York's Penn Station, the famously disgraceful hole under Madison Square Garden, with a more respectable facility in the Farley Post Office building on the West Side of Eighth Avenue-first proposed by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1993-are in limbo," writes Bernstein.

While there is a modicum of good news at Penn Station, where a $148 million contract has been awarded to "create street entrances to an existing concourse under the steps of the post office... the station itself, once designed by David Childs of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill with a luminous ticketing hall in the courtyard of the old post office building, is still on hold." 

"But even moving Amtrak's operations to a new Moynihan Station wouldn't help 90 percent of the commuters who use Penn Station every day," notes Bernstein. "The only way to create a new train station on that site would be to move the Garden-and right now, the Dolan family, owners of the arena, are happy where they are...Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (yet another stakeholder) has hired the Los Angeles office of AECOM to undertake a $7.7 million study of ways of making the existing Pennsylvania Station less ghastly-called Penn Station Vision-a strong sign that the station won't be replaced anytime soon."

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Published on Wednesday, September 12, 2012 in Architectural Record
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