Washington, D.C., is the latest in a slew of U.S. cities looking to upgrade their rail systems. Amtrak has released renderings, developed in collaboration with HOK and Parsons Brinckerhoff, of a new development for the capital’s Union Station, which would double the facility’s capacity for interstate travel while increasing intermodal connectivity within the District as well. The existing Daniel Burnham–designed station, which opened in 1907, would remain the cardinal face of Union Station to the south, but the northern edge of the complex—currently an underwhelming parking garage and bus terminal on H Street—would undergo significant changes.
The master plan calls for an open train shed, evoking the stations of European cities, capped by an undulating green roof, which, the architects note, emphasizes both the sustainability of the shed itself and the mode of transportation it houses. “Train transportation is one of the most sustainable forms of travel out there,” says Bill Hellmuth, AIA, HOK's D.C.-based president and the design leader for Amtrak’s master plan. The vegetated roof serves to mitigate stormwater runoff while “creating the impression of movement in the roof structure,” Hellmuth says. The new train shed will house electric-powered trains, with diesel engines relegated to their own, more heavily ventilated, quarters beneath the station.
Included in the station’s growth plan is a deep underground venue for future high-speed rail—possibly linking Southward—as well as a stop for the proposed H Street/Benning Road NE streetcar, although the latter project has met roadblocks thanks to scheduling and right-of-way issues. To the east and north of the new train shed will be a development by Shalom Baranes Architects, with commercial and residential buildings built above the rail lines.
Plans for the new Union Station are in development while the project awaits funding. Hellmuth says that the project, once financed, would probably take 10 to 15 years to complete. HOK is currently working on construction phasing plans so that the first stage of construction could begin as soon as the funding is in place, with only two platforms decommissioned at a time for minimized interruption of service, working in slivers across the site.