Ramsey County finalizes purchase of Union Depot

The hub
Transit advocates foresee using the historic Union Depot in St. Paul's Lowertown as the eventual center for a transit system through the eastern Twin Cities.
MPR photo/Dan Olson

The Ramsey County Board, serving as the Regional Railroad Authority, on Tuesday gave final approval to the purchase of the Union Depot's main building in downtown St. Paul for $8.2 million.

The vote was 6-0, with Commissioner Tony Bennett absent.

The purchase includes the commercial portions of the building, known as the head house, as well as the parking structure and the land that the building sits on. Thirty-nine condo units built by the current owner will remain in private hands.

County officials plan to turn the Union Depot into a regional transportation hub as part of the 11-mile Central Corridor Light Rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

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Construction of the $914 million line itself won't start until next summer, at the earliest, and is scheduled to open in 2014. The depot itself is scheduled to reopen two years earlier, in 2012.

"Today marks the official start of the project to return the Union Depot to what it once was: a transportation hub for Ramsey County, the state of Minnesota and the entire upper Midwest," Commissioner Jim McDonough, chair of the Rail Authority, said in a statement.

Officials also hope the depot will house Amtrak passenger rail and Midwest high speed rail to Chicago, as well as Greyhound and Jefferson Lines buses, Metro Transit, bicycles and pedestrians.

"The multimodal transit hub we are creating at the Depot will provide seamless transfers between transportation modes, including trains, local and interstate buses, cars and bicycles," McDonough said.

Union Depot was built from 1918 to 1923 on the site of an earlier train station, which was destroyed by fire in 1915.

At its peak, it served more than 280 passenger trains daily, according to the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority.