From Barb Thoman, TLC Executive Director
Hundreds of enthusiastic rail supporters gathered in downtown St. Paul on January 18th, 2011, to celebrate the official ground-breaking for the rehabilitation of the Union Depot. Speakers included Therese McMillan, Deputy Director of the Federal Transit Administration, US Rep. Betty McCollum, Rep. Alice Hausman, Ramsey County Commissioners, and other key officials.
While no frozen earth was turned, the crowd cheered as Mortenson Construction fired up a backhoe and began to demolish a truck loading dock to make way for train platforms. The loading dock was constructed for the US Post Office, which occupied a portion of the Depot for three decades.
The beautiful and historic Union Depot first opened in 1923 and last served rail passengers in 1971, when Amtrak moved to the Midway Station. At the peak of passenger rail service, the Union Depot saw nearly 800 daily trains and served 20,000 daily passengers.
In 2012, the refurbished Union Depot will again serve as Amtrak’s Twin Cities' hub and as the St. Paul hub for intercity bus service. When the Central Corridor LRT opens in 2014, the trains will stop on 4th street right in front of Union Depot. In the future, many hope that high speed trains to Chicago, and possibly Duluth and Rochester, also will serve the Depot.
The estimated $243 million renovation cost is being paid for with $80 million in federal funding, $4 million in state bonding, and $40 million from Ramsey County. Additional funding has yet to be secured.
St. Paul is not alone in reopening a historic rail station. Portland and San Diego have historic rail stations that have been serving passengers continuously for nearly a century. Denver and Seattle are both in the process of refurbishing rail stations that are currently in use, but had fallen into disrepair.