Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Washington Union Station Expansion Project
Question #1: What is included in the proposed Washington Union Station Expansion Project?
The proposed project includes reconstructing and realigning tracks and platforms, developing new passenger concourses, improving multimodal transportation facilities, and improving and expanding other supporting facilities.
Question #2: Who is proposing the Washington Union Station Expansion Project?
The Washington Union Station Expansion Project is a proposal by the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak).
Question #3: What is the purpose of the Washington Union Station Expansion Project?
The purpose of the Washington Union Station Expansion Project (the Project) is to support current and future growth in rail service and operational needs; achieve compliance with ADA and emergency egress requirements; facilitate intermodal travel; provide a positive customer experience; enhance integration with the adjacent businesses, neighborhoods, and planned land uses; sustain the Station’s economic viability; and support continued preservation and use of the historic station building.
Question #4: Why is the Washington Union Station Expansion Project needed?
The Project is needed to improve rail capacity, reliability, safety, efficiency, accessibility, and security, for both current and future (2040) railroad operations at this historic station. Many station facilities are currently at or exceed their practical capacity. Additional growth in rail service and ridership will quickly push the Station beyond its capacity unless substantial efforts are made to accommodate the growth. WUS’s passenger facilities, including platforms, waiting areas and customer support services are not adequate to serve existing or projected future passenger demand for Amtrak, commuter rail, and other rail services. Multimodal operations and access are frequently constrained today and will be more so in the future. The passenger experience at WUS is not befitting of a central rail terminal in the nation’s capital and needs to be addressed. The layout and siting of the Station restrict connectivity with neighbors and need to be enhanced. Finally, to provide for a sustainable future for WUS’s preservation and maintenance, the Station will need to remain financially viable.
Question #5: What is the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC)?
USRC is a non-profit organization that acts as the landlord for Washington Union Station and is its public steward. USRC is committed to working closely with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which owns the Union Station building, to ensure the preservation of this essential historic transportation facility. For more information, go to www.usrcdc.com.
Question #6: What is USRC’s role in the Project?
USRC and Amtrak are the proponents of the Washington Union Station Expansion Project. USRC in coordination with Amtrak has developed concept plans for the station expansion. The concept plans are being submitted to FRA to support the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process.
Question #7: What is FRA?
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 and is one of ten agencies within the U.S. Department of Transportation concerned with intermodal transportation. FRA’s mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future. FRA is the owner of Union Station. For more information about the FRA, visit www.fra.dot.gov.
Question #8: What is FRA’s Role in this Project?
FRA, as the lead federal agency and owner of Washington Union Station, will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the potential impacts to the human and natural environment resulting from the Washington Union Station Expansion Project.
Question #9: What is Amtrak?
Amtrak operates a nationwide rail network, serving 500 destinations across the country and portions of Canada. It is the nation's only high-speed intercity passenger rail provider and is also the operator of choice for state-supported corridor services in 15 states and for four commuter rail agencies. Amtrak owns the rail infrastructure (tracks, platforms, and supporting facilities) at Washington Union Station and is the majority owner of the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail network between Washington, D.C., and Boston, MA.
Question #10: What is Amtrak’s role in this Project?
Amtrak is a Washington Union Station Expansion Project proponent and is responsible for planning improvements to the tracks and platforms at the station. Both Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) have maintenance and/or operating agreements with Amtrak to provide commuter rail service at Union Station and along portions of the Northeast Corridor. For more information, go to www.nec.amtrak.com.
Question #11: What is the NEPA process?
Passed in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) established a national policy and framework to ensure potential environmental impacts of federal actions (such as approvals, funding, or permits) were evaluated prior to decision making. Washington Union Station is a federally-owned facility, and federal funds may be used for the Washington Union Station Expansion Project in the future. Therefore, the Project must go through the NEPA process. In this instance, FRA is the lead federal agency guiding the NEPA process through the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Question #12: What is an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)?
An EIS is prepared to document a federal agency’s NEPA analysis, and it is made available for public review. The Washington Union Station Expansion Project EIS will evaluate the reasonable range of alternatives and the impacts of those alternatives to the human and natural environment. As an essential part of this evaluation, FRA will take into consideration input from the public and appropriate federal, state, and local agencies. A Record of Decision (ROD) will announce FRA’s decision(s) regarding the Project.
Question #13: How will EIS address impacts on nearby neighborhoods?
The EIS will consider and evaluate the Project’s potential direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on the surrounding and adjacent areas. The resource topic areas that will be addressed include: air quality; water resources; biological resources; noise; vibration; energy; hazardous materials; solid waste disposal; visual/aesthetics; transportation and traffic; land use; socioeconomics; environmental justice communities; public health; public safety; parks and recreational properties; and cultural resources/historic properties. For each of these main resource topic areas, FRA will consider an appropriate study area(s) to ensure that the potential impacts are fairly and accurately described in the EIS.
Question #14: Are there historic properties associated with the Project?
Yes, historic properties are associated with the Washington Union Station Expansion Project. Union Station, which includes the historic station building and related structures such as the Burnham Wall along First Street, as well as the adjacent Columbus Plaza, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites. The Terminal Rail Yard and related structures have been recommended as eligible for listing in the NRHP. The Project is also adjacent or in proximity to several historic properties. Due to the potential for the Washington Union Station Expansion Project to affect historic properties, FRA will comply with the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
Question #15: What is Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act?
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (54 U.S.C. 300101 et seq.) requires federal agencies, like FRA, to consider the effects of projects they fund or approve on historic properties. Through the Section 106 process, FRA will afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), other consulting parties, and the public an opportunity to comment on the potential effects of the Washington Union Station Project. The Section 106 process will include an evaluation of effects to historic resources including the historic station building itself, and other surrounding historic properties that could be affected by the Project. A goal of Section 106 is to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate effects to historic properties resulting from federal projects. For further details on the Section 106 process please see the ACHP website http://www.achp.gov/106summary.html and http://www.achp.gov/work106.html.
Question #16: How does the Washington Union Station Expansion Project relate to the Amtrak 2012 Master Plan?
The Amtrak 2012 Union Station Master Plan is an aspirational vision prepared by Amtrak and coordinated with USRC, Akridge (a private development company) and other station partners. The Amtrak 2012 Master Plan was a planning effort that helped Amtrak and its partners define goals for long-term expansion of the station and near-term improvements to passenger facilities.
Question #17: What is Akridge?
Akridge is a private development company that purchased and owns a portion of the air rights over the tracks and platforms at Washington Union Station. The General Services Administration (GSA) administered and approved the sale of the air rights in 2006.
Question #18: What is Burnham Place?
Burnham Place is a private development project, proposed by Akridge, to be built above Union Station's rail yard. Burnham Place is a separate project from the Washington Union Station Expansion Project, and does not require any approvals from FRA or other federal agencies. As there are no approvals or funding from federal agencies for the development of Burnham Place, NEPA review is not applicable. Akridge will be responsible for ensuring that Burnham Place will undergo its own separate review and regulatory process, per applicable District of Columbia laws and regulations. For more information on the private development project please visit: www.burnhamplace.com.
Question #19: Is there any funding that has been identified for the Washington Union Station Expansion Project?
The Washington Union Station Expansion Project is currently in the project planning process. Upon completion of the environmental review and if FRA approves one of the build alternatives in its Record of Decision (ROD), USRC and Amtrak will pursue implementation of the Project using all of the financing tools available, which may include federal grant and loan programs.
Question #20: How can I be involved in the Washington Union Station Expansion Project?
Attend the public meetings and provide your input. You can find announcements about future meetings and additional information on the Project website: www.WUSstationexpansion.com.
FRA will solicit comments on the Project when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement is made available for public review. Questions can be submitted throughout the process via email at info@WUSstationexpansion.com or mailed to:
Office of Railroad Policy and Development
USDOT Federal Railroad Administration (MS-20 RPD-13)
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590.