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More Parking Planned for Union Station

There might be some light at the end of the tunnel for those trying to find parking around Capitol Hill. In the next few weeks the Union Station Redevelopment Corp. will be moving ahead with plans to secure funding for a 300,000-square-foot addition to the Union Station parking garage.

The $30 million project will create a new mezzanine level, refurbish the existing garage structure and add some 900 new parking spaces to Union Station.

“Parking is a double-edged sword,” said Rick Rybeck, deputy administrator for transportation policy and planning in the District Department of Transportation. “On the one hand you want people to be able to get into and out of an area quickly and easily, on the other hand you don’t want commuters to now decide to drive to work because there’s more parking in the area. In the case of Union Station, the garage is not intended for commuters but for people who have short-term needs … people will park there and use the transit offered there for other trips.”

Some of the new space could be used to accommodate tour bus and Metro bus layover parking. Some Greyhound bus service could also be located in the bus space, which would be opened up by moving rental car parking off the current bus deck.

According to the corporation — a nonprofit group set up by the government to coordinate construction on Union Station — if funding is approved, bidding on the project will begin over the summer and construction could begin as early as September. The tax-exempt bonds the corporation is seeking is a common funding option for nonprofit corporations. The bonds will be repaid by revenue generated from the parking garage. Construction on the expansion and refurbishment is expected to take nine to 12 months.

With the new addition, the Union Station garage — already the largest parking garage in the city, according to David Ball, the corporation’s president — would have 2,338 parking spaces. The footprint of the garage structure will not change — the complex will simply extend farther out toward H Street on the north side of Union Station. The commission is working with the National Capitol Planning Corp. and the District’s Fine Arts Council to make sure the design fits in concert with the existing structure of Union Station.

“As the U.S. Capitol goes into new security measures there has been a lot of street parking that has been taken away,” Ball said. “We have a dire need for additional spaces. Currently our garage fills up between 11:30 [a.m.] and 2 [p.m.] and we have to turn away a lot of cars.”

Ball said the corporation has been discussing the need for an addition for the past two years and received authority from its board of directors to move forward with the project last September.

“This will help increase employment in the station by bringing more people in, and it will help give us more capacity for tour buses that come into the city,” Ball said.

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