WASHINGTON - Amtrak's roughly $7 billion master plan for a complete overhaul of Washington D.C.'s Union Station would likely involve a large collaborative effort mixing public and private funding sources, according to a company spokesman and industry experts.
The 15-20 year overhaul plan, announced Thursday, was developed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, Virginia Railway Express, Maryland Transit Administration, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and development firm Akridge, Amtrak said. The plan includes the estimated cost and timetables, but identifies no specific sources of funding that would allow the plan's grand reconstruction of the station and added high-speed rail infrastructure.
"The project cost is estimated at $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion in 2012 dollars and will likely be financed through a combination of public and private funding sources," an Amtrak spokesman said.
David Umansky, a spokesman for district chief financial officer Natwar Gandhi, said Gandhi's office was not involved in, or approached about, the plan. Umansky suggested the federal government would likely be the first source of public funding. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., released a statement indicating she would be a leading advocate for the project in Congress.
Art Guzzetti. vice president for policy at the American Public Transportation Association, said the Northeast Corridor, of which Union Station is a key hub, is among the "most vibrant corridors in the world" and the project is likely to generate funding interest because it has both federal and regional importance.
Guzzetti said lawmakers and stakeholders meeting at the World Congress on High Speed Rail in Philadelphia two weeks ago were already talking about Union Station's potential for investment.
"They're already talking about hearings," Guzzetti said. "How can we use this asset to leverage funds?"
The project could conceivably be operated as a public-private partnership, a model that has served well for similar projects in other countries, Guzzetti said.
Union Station, which opened in 1907, is the second-busiest station in Amtrak's network and is operating beyond its capacity, Amtrak said.
"Washington Union Station is an integral part of the Northeast transportation network, facing urgent capacity issues and a need to expand to support increasing ridership growth across all services," said Amtrak president & chief executive officer Joe Boardman. "This plan will transform the station into a world-class transportation hub to serve the region and the mobility needs of generations of passengers yet to come."
Guzzetti said lawmakers should authorize more federal funds for Union Station because its one the greatest assets in Washington. In contrast to California's controversial high-speed project, transportation-interested Republicans have indicated support for increased rail investment in the Northeast.
"The capital city should have a grand gateway," said Guzzetti.