Union Depot's $243 million makeover for trains and buses starts today

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Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority
Union Depot is being transformed into a regional transportation hub.
There was a time after World War II when 20,000 rail passengers a day traveled through the Union Depot in St. Paul. Its 18 tracks served trains that ranged as far and wide as Chicago and the Pacific Northwest.

Those days are gone, and they're never coming back. The building has been given over to condos, offices and restaurants.

Travelers may soon cross its concourses again, though.

A $243 million renovation project breaking ground today will employ some 3,000 workers over the course of two years or more to refurbish it as a hub for passenger rail and buses.

The depot won't look like it did back in the day, with mammoth locomotives pulling cars into the station. Greyhound, Jefferson Line and Metro Transit buses, light rail from the Central Corridor, and Amtrak will stop there instead.

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Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority
Minnesota's Union Depot: Good on paper.
There's some pie-in-the-sky dreaming associated with the project, too. Should the envisioned Red Rock and Rush Line commuter rail lines every make off the drawing board, they too would end at the Union Depot. And if the political climate changes in Wisconsin, there may even be high-speed rail to Chicago.

True, a government-run "Central Corridor" light rail train doesn't carry the dreamy weight of "The Great Northern Railway," but the ghost of "Empire Builder" James J. Hill is probably looking down from his mansion on Cathedral Hill today with a faint smile of recognition.

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