Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Streamlined Bus Terminal at Union Station?

Congress is mulling big changes for Union Station including a new intercity bus terminal, improved rail passenger access and reduced congestion via two new concourses, proposed reinforcement of the H St bridge, altered and additional metro entrances and the renovation and expansion of the north station entrance. During a July Congressional hearing, lawmakers urged project officials to create a master plan so the Members could seek funding from their Congressional colleagues. The project could move forward with as soon as this fall.

The plans seek to streamline Union Station's role as a transportation hub with an intercity bus terminal. The current Greyhound Bus station is separate from Union Station, requiring passengers to walk outdoors for several minutes through a less-than-ideal area in terms of safety and accessibility; Greyhound has recently pursued moving into the train station. The bus terminal may be home to other bus lines including Bolt Bus and DC2NY among others. In addition to the connected bus terminal, two new metro entrances may be incorporated in the redesign.

Initially, the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) would not allow buses to use the station as a hub. But after several letters from House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) and Subcommittee Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), the USRC and Greyhound began cooperating and testified before the Committee in 2008. This most recent hearing was meant to update Congress and expedite the process.

Chip Akridge, Chairman of Akridge Development, which purchased the air rights of Union Station's train lines in 2006, called the plan a "vast improvement for intercity bus passengers" because it offers a safer and more direct transfer. The developer plans to build the gargantuan 3 million-s.f. Burnham Place, named after Union Station's architect, which will extend north of Union station, past the Hopscotch Bridge on H Street, and house a 400-room hotel, residential towers and first-class office and retail space. Akridge requested $40 million for a new bus terminal and two new metro entrances. The metro access points would be at 1st St NE below the H St overpass, with a connecting walkway to the existing metro ticketing area, and at H St. NE, directly adjacent to the planned terminal. In a statement, David S. Ball, President of the USRC, said the group will be able to move forward with plans pending a study of the physical limitations of the existing parking deck, which has been suggested as a location for the bus terminal. The 42,000 s.f. of space, a portion of the total 140,000 s.f. current parking deck, is being evaluated for the cost of delivery of utilities as well as its structural carrying capacity. The study will help determine the cost of building the terminal, allowing the involved parties to make end user, design, construction, financing and scheduling decisions as early as this fall.

According to Ball, the engineering firm has promised delivery of their evaluation of the parking deck this week. Ball also indicated that the current plans and numbers are very fluid; the actual amount of space devoted to the bus terminal may change pending the report.


skinnytree said...

This is a plan that makes a ton of sense--Union Station can become a true focal point for the city, the integrated transportation hub.

Train, Metro, streetcars, inter-city bus, bus, and bike path networks are all planned to intersect there. It sounds like the plan would also correct some of the mistakes made during the mostly great 1980s renovation. The actual train portion of the building was relegated to a cramped section in the very back.

Very glad too to hear plans for creating a true North entrance on H street. It says a lot about priorities in architecture from past decades that there is absolutely no obvious pedestrian entrance on H-street and no sign for the station there, just driveways for the parking garage. Exciting stuff.

Anonymous said...

The walk from Union Station to Greyhound is fine. I work in that area (1st St.) and walk it every day. I wouldn't do it at 2am, mind you, but generally it's fine.

That said, that Union Station isn't already a complete transit hub is a bit silly. They should get to work on this plan.

Alex said...

Great, thanks for the report, and great plan. Union Station is a huge asset to the city, but underutilized because of the lack of access to H Street, lack of multi-modal transportation, and poorly designed street entryway, which just encourages traffic build up.

Que said...

How exactly would they add an entrance to H Street; the bridge is quite far from the Northern entrance thats on 1street.

How would they do this without expanding the platform to make it longer and if they added it to the current entrance wouldn't it create a 2 block walk from the fare-gates to the actual entrance.

Tom Veil on Aug 20, 2009, 9:50:00 AM said...

Que: There are vague plans in the works to have a second, east-west Metro line come to Union Station, and most of those plans have the train run under H Street (my guess: 2025). The Burnham Place metro tunnel will involve a LOT of reconfiguring of the disparate ground levels, and probably will STILL look very awkward when it's built. But when the second Metro line comes in, it should snap right into place and use these new exits more naturally.

dcshaw said...

Tom: what is the second east-west metro line planned to come into Union Station? Is this the proposed new blue line in DC?

Ellen McCarthy said...

The last time I saw Akridge's plans, which have done a fabulous job of working around a number of constraints, there were also greatly improved connections to MARC and VRE, and an increase in retail space. Along with the entrance on H Street that the DC Office of Planning insisted on in the Station Place development next door (where Kaiser Permanente is planning to open a large facility), and the proposed trolley line from Benning to Station Place along H Street, this would have a major impact on street vitality on H Street NE. Now, if we could only improve the look of that parking garage....

gsitgraves said...

My only concern is preserving the character of the neighborhood. Union Station is a grand old building and the current renovation is fantastic. The Mass. Av. side retains the dignity of Capitol Hill and is senic, fun to drive route at night when there is little traffic.
During the day, the reality of driving in the older sections of the city become frustrating. The city blocks are too short. Drivers make left turns and predestrians have rights. Traffic cannot be diverted to H & K streets as they face the same problems with cross streets. I would hate to see them dig up the H street / Benning road corridor again. That has been a construction nightmare for over ten years.
With all of these concerns, I do support the program. The only loss I see is the beauty of the renovated wharehouses on 2nd. street. Height limitations will protect everything else.

A-lo on Aug 20, 2009, 5:58:00 PM said...

Fantastic idea. Union Station could easily (except for the money) become one of the major destinations in the city if all of these plans come to fruition. I wish they could rebuild the canopy over the train loading area so that it resembles more of a European style, airy station.

ap on Aug 24, 2009, 9:51:00 AM said...

A tunnel already exists 2/3 of the way from the current metro gates to the corner of first and h st.

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