Norton Opposes Large Parking Garage at Union Station, Calls on House Appropriators to Instruct FRA to Reduce Size
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today wrote a letter to Chairman David E. Price and Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart on the Transportation, Housing, Urban Development and Related Agencies Subcommittee under the House Committee on Appropriations asking the committee to include report language expressing concern with the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) plans for a parking deck as part of the Union Station Expansion Project. In addition, she requested that FRA work with DC government to develop a revised plan with fewer unnecessary parking places.
The Union Station project currently calls for 1,575 parking places, a number which many stakeholders at the regional and local levels find concerning. According to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), much of the planned parking spots will be used for non-federal commercial use and asked FRA to "substantially reduce" the number of parking spaces in the plan before the next state of review.
On April 30, 2020, Andrew Trueblood, Director of the D.C. Office of Planning (OP), wrote FRA recommending between 295 and 375 parking spaces total. Trueblood further noted that the sought-after number of parking places in the thousands would undermine the District's key goals for the project and provide less space for safe pedestrian and bicyclist mobility. The parking spaces also limit the area that could be used for more revenue-producing ventures like stores or restaurants.
"While I am strongly in favor of the project and the extensive development it will bring to one of the most significant multimodal hubs in our city and region," Norton said, "I am deeply concerned by FRA’s reluctance to modify its plans in light of concerns from both NCPC and community leaders. For this project to be successful, FRA must be responsive to the concerns of the community and respectful of the Comprehensive Plan, which calls for reductions in congestion and the creation of safer environments for pedestrians and bicyclists."
The letter ends with Norton asking for report language reflecting the above to be put in the bill.
The letter follows.
June 22, 2020
The Honorable David E. Price The Honorable Mario Diaz-Balart
Chairman Ranking Member
Transportation, and Housing and Transportation, and Housing and
Urban Development and Related Urban Development and Related
Agencies Subcommittee Agencies Subcommittee
House Committee on Appropriations House Committee on Appropriations
Dear Chairman Price and Ranking Member Diaz-Balart:
As you continue developing the FY 2021 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I write to request that you include report language expressing the committee’s concern with the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) plans for an extensive parking deck as part of its plans for the Washington Union Station Expansion project (project). I also request that the committee include report language instructing FRA to work with the District of Columbia government to develop a revised plan for parking that would significantly reduce the number of parking spaces associated with the project.
A number of stakeholders at the regional and local levels have expressed concern with FRA’s plan for parking in its Preferred Alternative A-C, which would dedicate 1,575 spaces at Union Station. While this plan would reduce the existing 2,200 parking spaces at Union Station, many stakeholders say that the amount of parking FRA seeks to maintain is still far more than needed.
On January 9, 2020, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the agency with approval authority over the project, conducted a preliminary review of the concept plans for the FRA’s Preferred Alternative A-C. NCPC noted that much of the parking at Union Station is for non-federal commercial use. NCPC also noted that the proposed 2019 federal Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital (Comprehensive Plan) says that federal agencies should take into account the parking policies of local jurisdictions to develop standards for parking for non-workplace uses. NCPC asked FRA to “substantially reduce” the number of parking spaces in the plan and to work with all relevant parties, including the District government, before the next stage of review to evaluate and determine the appropriate amount of parking in light of the ‘mix of uses, traffic and urban design impacts and the transit-oriented nature of the project.”
On April 30, 2020, Andrew Trueblood, Director of the D.C. Office of Planning (OP), sent a letter to FRA leadership noting that after an analysis of comparable U.S. facilities, D.C. policies, and projected parking demand at Union Station, OP recommended between 295 and 375 parking spaces. Director Trueblood further noted that FRA’s desired number of parking spaces (1,575) would undermine the District’s key goals for the project, including prioritizing intermodal effectiveness and efficiency, providing continued and enhanced quality of life for people who live in, work in, and visit the Union Station area and promoting pedestrian mobility. Director Trueblood further noted that the elimination of unnecessary parking would pave the way for tax revenue-generating projects such as hotels, office space and retail. D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, who represents the Union Station area, and several members of the local community have echoed Director Trueblood’s concerns, noting the potential for FRA’s preferred plan to exacerbate traffic patterns in an already congested area and make it difficult for bicyclists and pedestrians to safely enjoy the station.
After three meetings of the Parking Working Group, which includes all relevant parties and was formed at NCPC’s request, FRA remains unwilling to propose any reduction in the 1,575 parking spaces in its Preferred Alternative A-C. Additionally, FRA released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on June 4, 2020, which also identifies Alternative A-C as the Preferred Alternative and proposes approximately 1,600 parking spaces despite the concerns expressed by NCPC and the community regarding the number of parking spaces.
While I am strongly in favor of the project and the extensive development it will bring to one of the most significant multimodal hubs in our city and region, I am deeply concerned by FRA’s reluctance to modify its plans in light of concerns from both NCPC and community leaders. For this project to be successful, FRA must be responsive to the concerns of the community and respectful of the Comprehensive Plan, which calls for reductions in congestion and the creation of safer environments for pedestrians and bicyclists. I therefore request that the following language be included in the report accompanying the bill:
“The Committee recognizes the importance of Union Station as an intermodal transportation hub for the National Capital Region and also supports the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) plan to expand rail capacity at the station as part of a broader station expansion project that will include a mixture of residential, retail, office and hotel space. The Committee is aware that the National Capital Planning Commission has requested that FRA reduce the number of parking spaces in its Union Station redevelopment plans, noting that the majority of the station’s approximately 2,200 spaces appear to be used by monthly pass holders rather than daily retail or rail users and that FRA’s proposed 1,575 parking spaces is excessive. Similar concerns about the impact of this number of parking spaces on the viability of the expansion project, congestion and traffic patterns in the local area and access for pedestrians and bicyclists have been raised by the local community. Despite these concerns, FRA released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement on June 4, 2020, which also identifies Alternative A-C as the Preferred Alternative and proposes approximately 1,600 parking spaces.
The Committee shares concerns regarding parking and does not support FRA’s proposal to retain 1,575 parking spaces in its Preferred Alternative A-C. The Committee instructs FRA to continue working with the District of Columbia government to substantially reduce the parking spaces for this project. In making a determination on the number of parking spaces, FRA should consider parking models at comparable transit stations, data-driven analysis of projected parking needs and the planning goals and policies of the District of Columbia, including the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital. The Committee further instructs FRA to incorporate the feedback of all stakeholders, including residents of affected neighborhoods, into its planning process.”
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.