Union Station and the surrounding area is in line for a huge renovation. Some of the changes could mean an extended Metropolitan Branch Trail, and the area could be more bike and pedestrian-friendly with a redesigned Columbus Circle.
At Union Station itself, Amtrak is looking to add new entrances, lower-level concourses, and retail, along with make existing platforms wider. There's also a plan for a project called Burnham Place, which would bring new office space, residential units, hotels, and retail overtop the tracks directly north of Union Station. Burnham Place would include "a green linear park connecting pedestrians and bikers north to Montgomery County in Maryland" — otherwise known as the Metropolitan Branch Trail. The trail would be built above the metro tracks, as a separated alternative to the existing protected bikeway that runs along First Street NE.
Blue arrow points to the trail, train circled in blue, existing bikeway circled in red. The new metro entrance is below the train.
In the renderings below, the elevated park runs north behind the Union Station Bike Station on the building's west side, continuing as a tree-lined, elevated strip to the current trail just north of L Street.
The project, as rendered, would also create new connections to the trail. A pedestrian connection between the trail and 2nd Street NE would be added at K Street NE. A new segment of I Street built through Burnham Place would connect the trail to the new north-south roads in the developments (and thus to H Street) as well as the new road built between Union Station and the buildings that front 2nd Street NE such as the SEC building.
Trail is in red, pedestrian connection in yellow, new street grid, which connects to the trail is in pink
The DC Bicycle Advisory Council (BAC) has submitted comments asking for more bike parking and greater security for bike parking, including lighting. There's currently bike parking in the Bike Station at Union Station's southwest corner and at some outside racks in the same area. But sometimes there isn't enough, and what's there is notoriously theft-prone. Also, it's all in one place even though Union Station has multiple entrances— there doesn't even appear to be any bike parking in the existing parking garage.
One particular area the BAC recommended was on the north side of Columbus Circle near the existing flag poles across from Union Station.
In addition to these changes, the BAC has also discussed a complimentary idea to redesign Columbus Circle for better use, in light of Delaware Avenue and First Street NE south of D Street being closed for security reasons after September 11th.
If Delaware and First's connections to Columbus Circle were closed to automobile traffic, the roads could be narrowed, parking could move off of Massachusetts Avenue, and there'd be more space for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
Delaware Avenue could become a woonerf, used by cyclists going to or from the Circle and by drivers, accessing it only from D Street, for parking. First Street could be narrowed to two lanes with angled parking on one or both sides, while leaving a space for protected bikeways.
The addition of parking to First Street would allow for the removal of curbside parking on Massachusetts Avenue between First and Second Streets NE. This block is confusing, as it features two lanes wide enough for side-by-side traffic and curbside parking. Removing the parking would allow this block to feature three or four traffic lanes and a continuation of the bike lanes from Columbus Circle. For pedestrians, the south side of the circle would feature shorter bike facility crossings at New Jersey and First, instead of the current road crossings.
The Federal Railroad Administration will host a meeting on Wednesday, March 30th to give the public a chance to review the drafted project elements for Union Station's expansion.
FRA invites the public to review the draft project elements for the Union Station Expansion Project. These elements include rail infrastructure; public concourses; parking, bus, and taxi facilities; retail space; and public open spaces. They will be assembled to form concepts being developed by the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC) and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) for the station expansion. FRA is seeking public input on developing the concepts that will form the alternatives, which will be evaluated in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
Today's meeting might be more about the plans to expand the concourse, released yesterday, than anything else.
Cross-posted at GreaterGreaterWashington