Thursday, May 08, 2014

Amtrak moves into St. Paul Union Depot

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Amtrak's westbound Empire Builder may be struggling on its way across North Dakota, but it called on a new home in St. Paul, Minn., on Wednesday, May 7, 2014, stopping for passengers to disembark, or board, at newly restored Union Depot.

The first eastbound Empire Builder was scheduled to arrive at the station early Thursday, at 8:00 a.m.

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman was in St. Paul Wednesday, joining officials with Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA), the owners of Union Depot, and federal, state, and local officials, to herald the event.

The new stop replaces service at the former Midway Station between St. Paul and Minneaspolis, which Amtrak said "no longer has any public functions." It also presages complementary Green Line light rail transit service expected to commence next month; the Green Line links Union Depot with St. Paul points and Minneapolis' existing Blue Line (Hiawatha Line) LRT. Metro Transit and MVTA bus sevice also will be accessible from Union Depot.

"We know from experience that travel brings business – and that stations bring business to the surrounding community," Boardman said. "While we're celebrating the fact that today the people of the Twin Cities will now have more travel choices than ever before, we can also celebrate the fact that they have a station that's also an engine – an engine of economic development for the surrounding neighborhood and historic district."

"It's a great day to welcome passenger rail back to St. Paul, and no better place to do it than the historic Union Depot—a building that would have met the wrecking ball if not for the leadership of its many champions from the County Board to the White House," said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. "The Amtrak opening today and the Green Line opening in just a few weeks is proof that transportation investments are critical to economic growth and regional prosperity.

Though the Empire Builder is currently the only Amtrak service calling on Union Depot, that could change fairly soon. Amtrak said it will soon deliver a report to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) measuring an additional round-trip between St. Paul and Chicago, one of four passenger rail corridors being considered by the state.