Commuters in Washington can look forward to a better passenger experience thanks to Amtrak’s planned renovation of the intercity and commuter rail concourse at Washington Union Station.
Union Station has been in operation since it was built in 1907 As one of the busiest rail stations in the country, and a major transport hub and tourist attraction for the Washington region, the station welcomes some 37 million people every year. As well as traveling locally on services such as the Acela Express and Northeast Regional, which serve the Washington and Mid Atlantic areas, travelers also use the station to board several of Amatrak’s long distance sleeper trains. Additional commuter trains for the region, and long distance services to the Southeast and Midwest, mean that Union Station is a vital transport hub for travelers across the state, and across the United States.
These high visitor numbers mean that in recent years the concourse has been operating over capacity, especially during rush hour and at peak travel times. This overcrowding makes commuting more difficult and unpleasant for workers, day trippers, families, and anyone else passing through the busy transport hub. With long queues waiting to board trains and overcrowding in the concourse, commuters find themselves stressed, rushed, and even concerned about the possibility of an accident as too many passengers try to find their way to their designated train at a time.
As a result of these conditions and issues, planning for the future of the station has become a major concern for Amtrak, who now have a solid plan in place to modernize the Union Station concourse. The modernization project will increase passenger capacity and ease congestion, making for a safer, more pleasant, and more efficient experience for commuters and visitors. The project will bring the station up to date with all current safety regulations and make for a better experience all round.
It is estimated that the planned works will add 20,000 feet of passenger space to the concourse, which will almost double its capacity.
The new improved concourse will include new boarding gates, improved seating, new restrooms, and a ClubAcela lounge. The new concourse has been designed to maximize natural light, creating a modern and open concourse created for passenger comfort.
“This work and other planned improvements will transform Union Station’s capacity and performance” says Stephen Gardner, Amtrak’s Executive Vice President of Northeast Corridor Business Development, adding that “it will vastly improve passenger comfort and accessibility with a modern and reconfigured concourse area .”
The concourse improvements are part of a larger plan to modernize Washington Union Station with a range of improvements overseen by different agencies, including the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and the Federal Railroad Administration. The eventual aim is to double train capacity and triple passenger capacity within the next 20 years. Improvements are to include a grand new First Street entrance to the station, and a new Metrorail staircase in the western portion of the concourse.
“As our busiest metrorail station, customer-focused improvements are critical at Union Station” explains Shyam Kannan, Managing Director of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Work on the concourse is expected to start in spring 2016, with phased construction beginning in 2017. Amtrak and its contractors aim to minimize the impact on passengers as the station concourse is updated.
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