Nov '23

Amtrak seeks to take DC’s Union Station in eminent domain case – WTOP

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Neal Augenstein | naugenstein@wtop.com
November 28, 2023, 1:23 PM
Amtrak will argue in federal court Tuesday that eminent domain privileges dictate it should be granted full control of historic Union Station in D.C.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Amtrak is seeking control of the property managed by a private company, Union Station Investco or USI. The U.S. has owned the property since 1985, and authorized the nonprofit Union Station Redevelopment Corporation to oversee the property.
Currently, Union Station Investco subleases a small portion of the station — approximately 13% — to Amtrak for its railroad operations, including ticket counters and concourse.
Amtrak filed the eminent domain case in April 2022, seeking control of Union Station Investco’s stake, citing federal code that says Amtrak has the authority to seize property “necessary for intercity rail passenger transportation.”
In its lawsuit, Amtrak claimed it needs control of Union Station “to ensure that the Station is safely and effectively brought back to its full potential as a premier rail passenger station and multimodal transportation hub.”
Specifically, Amtrak said that having control of the property is needed “to repair and reinforce the train tunnel that runs through the Station, so that safety and stability are maintained, to improve passenger amenities and experience at the Station, including expanding the existing passenger waiting area to handle increased passenger volume, and to effectively manage the Station now and in the future.”
Companies challenging Amtrak’s takeover said they have cooperated and not impeded any of the improvements Amtrak seeks to make. In addition, if Amtrak secures control of Union Station, it would effectively terminate current leases for stores and restaurants.
“If granted immediate possession, Amtrak would seek to implement changes to the Station that would decimate its value,” according to Union Station Investco and other entities challenging Amtrak’s bid.
A takeover by Amtrak would “harm the community that patronizes and supports the Station,” according to a filing ahead of Tuesday’s arguments.
The pandemic, crime and homelessness have taken their toll on Union Station, which has been targeted for redevelopment.
Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal’s been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.
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