On December 8, Saint Paul’s historic Union Depot will officially
open to the public and begin serving transit passengers for the first time in
40 years! TLC is eager to participate in Saturday’s grand reopening festivities
and to hop aboard one of the Metro Transit buses that begin serving the depot
that same day. We recently sat down with Ramsey County Regional Railroad
Authority’s Josh Collins, to ask some questions about new transit service, the restoration,
and what to expect at the December 8 celebration. We hope to see you there—be
sure to stop by TLC’s table to say hello!
TLC: What modes of
service are launching at Union Depot and when?
JC: The services begin in phases. Metro Transit bus service
and casino shuttle service will begin on December 8. In January, Jefferson
Lines will begin regional bus service out of the Depot. Amtrak will relocate to
Union Depot sometime in 2013 and the Green Line (Central Corridor LRT) will
start in 2014.
TLC: What will Union
Depot offer for bicyclists and pedestrians?
JC: In early 2013, One on One Bicycle Studio will open a
full-service bicycle center in the depot, featuring secure storage, bicycle
repair and retail, showers, lockers, and food/drinks for commuters on the go.
We have built a new bike path across the north side of the train deck along
Kellogg Boulevard, which will eventually connect to the Bruce Vento Regional
Trail. For pedestrians, we have made significant improvements to the sidewalks
around the depot, and from the river
into Lowertown along Sibley Street. Clearer pedestrian paths, wider sidewalks,
and improved sight lines all contribute to a safer environment for pedestrians.
TLC: Why is it
important for multiple modes of transportation to converge at the restored
JC: To address the complex transportation needs of the
community, we need transportation options. Union Depot serves as a connection
point to services, amenities, and facilities that serve all types of people.
Multiple types of mass transit, bicycling, walking, and automobile users all
will find utility at Union Depot. Even those who travel up the Mississippi
River on the steamboats to Saint Paul will find themselves only feet from Union
TLC: Can you tell us
about any new or expected housing, office, or other development near Union
Depot? How do you think this reopening will impact downtown Saint Paul?
JC: The great thing about Saint Paul—and of course,
Lowertown—is that things are already happening here. The reopening of Union
Depot is just a part of the incredible energy and enthusiasm that people have
about the future of the east metro. Inside the depot, we have numerous
opportunities for additional restaurant, retail, or office space. By the time
the Green Line opens we hope to have added additional tenants to the depot,
which will draw people inside the great building. Lowertown is a noted arts
community, and at the depot we are looking forward to becoming part of the
bustling, creative community.
TLC: From 1923-1971,
Union Depot was a bustling hub for freight and passenger rail. Are there any
interesting elements of Union Depot’s history that stood out or were preserved
through the restoration process?
JC: We conducted public tours through the second year of
construction, and the personal stories and memories that were shared by some of
the attendees were profoundly moving. We spoke with a woman who said goodbye to
her father in 1942 at Union Depot, where he took his final photo with his
family before dying in a plane crash in the Philippines. We met families who
arrived in the 1950s as refugees from their homelands, who began new lives in Saint
Paul and view the depot as the place that welcomed them home. We met the
children of orphans placed on trains in New York and sent westward in the early
1900s, who arrived at Union Depot to join new families in and around Saint
Paul. The emotional connection that Union Depot has with the community is
TLC: What can people
expect during the grand reopening celebration on Saturday, December 8?
JC: The day begins at 9:30 a.m. with remarks from public
officials who were instrumental in making the project happen. This project took
the commitment of local, state, and federal officials, and the investment has
put a great many people to work. At 10 a.m., the wall separating the public
from the waiting room will come down and family-friendly celebrations will
continue into the evening, culminating in a family movie night (“Elf”!). There
will be actors from Bedlam Theatre recreating historical events and moments out
of time, artists, musicians, flamenco and belly dancers, information on
transportation, booths featuring historical information and much, much more.
TLC: Is there
anything else you’d like to add about Union Depot, our region’s transportation
system, or the significance of this restoration & reopening?
JC: The children who will attend this event will never know
a Twin Cities that doesn’t have trains running down the streets. Think about
that. Union Depot is steeped in history and memories. On December 8, we will
welcome back generations who remember the “way it was,” but we know that it is
just the beginning of a new era of experiences and memories yet to be.
Learn more about Union Depot and the grand reopening celebration here.
Photo courtesy of Union Depot Facebook page.