Information Forum Summary
On Wednesday, March 30, 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) hosted an Informational Forum to provide the public with an opportunity to learn more about the Washington Union Station Expansion Project. These elements will inform the Project design concepts and include the historic station, concourse, tracks and platforms, bus terminal, taxi, parking, and bike and pedestrian access. Located in Union Station’s Presidential Room from 4:00 to 8:00 PM, the forum was an open house format to encourage discussion between the public and Project Team. The forum was attended by 224 members of the public, including community representatives, interested stakeholders, and local residents.
Outreach for the Informational Forum included email blasts to individuals in the general project database (over 1,000 contacts) and the Community Communications Committee (CCC) who forwarded the information to their organization’s membership. Advertisements for the Informational Forum were posted in the Washington Post Express, the Washington Informer, the Hill Rag, and the Washington City Paper. An announcement was also placed in community listservs throughout the city.
Stations and Workshop
The Informational Forum was designed to be informative, engaging, and interactive. The room was divided into a presentation area (with formal presentations at 4:30 PM and 6:30 PM), and a workshop and board display area. The four display areas, staffed by project team experts, covered Planning Background, Existing Conditions and Examples Area, Project Elements Workshop Area, and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)/Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Each display area had informational boards for participants to learn more about the subject area. These boards can be accessed at: https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L17384.
In addition, the Project Elements area included a workstation for a hands-on learning experience with labeled cut outs of each element of the proposed project. Participants were encouraged to interact with project team members and provide comments at each area.
Information Forum Presentation Summary
The presentation began with an overview of the Project Team, which includes FRA, the NEPA Consultants, USRC, and Amtrak. During the presentation, participants learned about the next steps in the design process and were encouraged to engage the Project Team members at each of the stations. The PowerPoint presentation is available online at: https://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L17383
Summary of Comments
Handouts available to participants during the Informational Forum included an agenda, comment sheet, evaluation form, and a Title VI form. The voluntary Title VI form helps the Project Team assure that all citizens, regardless of race, color, or national origin, have an opportunity to participate in and respond to this project.
During the forum, participants turned in 42 comment sheets, 58 evaluation forms, and 54 Title VI forms. Participants were also encouraged to provide comments via sticky notes or flip charts, which were available at each of the workshop stations. Over 70 comments were provided using the sticky notes and flip charts. Comments received during the forum were compiled and categorized by the Project Team and are listed below.
- Significant support for preserving Union Station's historic structure
- It's beautiful; maintain its architectural integrity, restore the fountain and return the wooden benches to the main hall
- Do not obscure front façade
- Would like to see concourse and other public spaces restored
- Improve connections and pedestrian flows to the multiple entrance and exit points by enhancing wayfinding
- Provide more open areas and better lighting
- Expand capacity to relieve congestion
- Modernize the concourse to include better lighting and ventilation
- Happy that there are near-term improvements being made
- Create an attractive and functional waiting area for passengers
- Need more seating for passengers and other people in the station
Tracks and Platforms
- Expand platforms to allow space for waiting passengers to board trains
- Adjust platform levels to ADA standards
- Improve connections to Metro
- The connection to H Street Bridge and DC Streetcar is important
- Confusion about reducing the number of tracks while increasing train service
- Allow passengers to wait on platforms for the trains
- Have multi-level solutions been considered
- Are Metro’s long-term plans being considered
- Need to consider the tracks south of Union Station
- Improve access to the bus terminal from the Metro station and train station
- Design a people friendly terminal with protection from the weather
- Increase charter bus parking
- Why does Metro not use the bus station
- Add info about the bus schedules in the train station
- The taxi queue impedes pedestrian access to the station
- Move the taxi queue: to the rear (north) of the building, to First Street, to the bus terminal
- Encourage people to hail taxis from the surrounding streets
- Consider having taxis in the parking garage
- Move metro entrance in West Hall to 1st Street and restore this area as a drop off or taxi stand
- Minimize parking
- No need to increase parking in the future
- Provide for parking in the surrounding areas
- Automate parking which provides efficient use of space
Pedestrian and Bicycle Access
- Increase bike lanes and secured bike parking
- Challenging access areas for pedestrians and bicyclists: Columbus Circle, 2nd Street, 1st Street,
- Massachusetts Avenue, North Capitol Street
- Provide as many access points as possible
- Improve signal timing around station
- Increase train access to improve pedestrian movement, especially from the eastern entrance of the station
- Provide shelter and maximize natural lighting
- Design a sense of place to be educational while attracting more tourists
- No changes needed
- Do not imitate airports
- How would train hall be feasible with the air rights development
- How will inclusion programs (small/minority contractor participation and workforce development) be addressed and at what point during the project implementation process will efforts begin
- Lack of information on developer’s involvement in design
- It is imperative that the environmental impact study address the impact on the community—specifically, how to protect parking on nearby residential streets
- Oppose the Akridge project as inappropriate and out of scale with the historic buildings and neighborhood
- Please address early in the process funding of improvements and particularly user fees by travelers of these are seen as significant funding source
- Delay H Street until decisions are made about the rail yard and parking garage.
- Improve restrooms
- Hopefully plans include options for future expansion below the existing tracks.
- How will the project be funded
- Improve security
- Expand retail in the future
The next public meeting, planned for the fall of 2016, will present design concepts for the public to evaluate.