Tony Williams: Supporting a Bold Vision for Union Station

National Capital Planning Commission
Commission Meeting—Open Session

January 9, 2020

Testimony of Anthony Williams
Executive Director and CEO, Federal City Council
United States Department of Transportation, Federal Railroad Administration, 50 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Washington, DC – Washington Union Station Expansion Project


The Federal City Council is a nonprofit civic organization that works to advance projects and policies that are good for the future of the District of Columbia. Founded in 1954, the organization has a rich history of supporting projects that require complex cross-sector and cross-jurisdictional collaboration, especially those that involve collaboration between the federal and local government. At the root of this work has always been the recognition that federal assets in the District have a critical impact on local communities, and a commitment to fusing the civic quality of federal facilities with the vitality of the city. Examples of this work in the organization’s history include the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Avenue, advocating for the original buildout of the Metro system, and the development of the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.

The Federal City Council also has a rich history of work on Union Station. The organization was instrumental in calling for the redevelopment of the station in the 1980s and feels both a sense of organizational ownership and pride for the station.

I am here today to speak to the importance of bold, visionary thinking as we look ahead to the next redevelopment of the station. The expansion of Union Station represents the single greatest economic development and transportation opportunity for the District of Columbia and the region as a whole. Not only will the expansion double the station’s capacity for Amtrak and commuter rail service, but it will deliver fiscal benefits, job opportunities, and enhanced mobility through transportation capacity and facility improvements. By enhancing the station’s role as a high-capacity multimodal transit center, the station expansion project will have a significant influence in allowing the region to achieve goals related to growth, efficiency, and competitiveness, as well as critical climate-related goals. Lastly, the station expansion also will have a major influence on the successful development of privately-held air-rights over the Union Station railyard which will deliver substantial economic, housing, open space, and connectivity benefits to an area of the city that has historically served as a major barrier.

I appreciate the work of USRC and FRA to manage this complex project to date. As with any major project, there are sure to be varying perspectives as on the details of plans as they move closer towards completion. That’s to be expected, and there’s a well-established process whereby those perspectives will be heard and considered, including the process that we are in today. I’m not here to opine on the specifics of what’s proposed, rather I am here to call upon all of the stakeholders involved in this process, including the Commission, to rally behind a bold vision for the future of this station and the recognition that this project is a one-in-a-generation opportunity for our region.

An opportunity of this magnitude requires a bold vision, modern and innovative thinking, and dedication to the highest and best standards of planning and design. The importance of innovative approach cannot be overstated. That is particularly true for this Commission, a Commission I once sat on, given its demonstrated history of successfully integrating and balancing Federal and District interests. A project of this importance needs to capture the excitement, imagination and pride of key stakeholders in order to garner the political and financial support required to make the project a reality. With a shared commitment to a bold vision as our guide, we have the chance to shape this station for generations to come and to transform Union Station into the crown jewel of the District, the region, and the nation’s capital.