Party marks reopening of St. Paul's Union Depot

Union Depot
Hundreds of people stream through the concourse and into the football-field-size waiting room of the restored Union Depot in downtown St. Paul on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. It was the first time in 41 years the depot was fully open to the public. The depot underwent a two-year, $243 million restoration to prepare it for passenger and light rail trains, buses, bikes and motor coach service.
MPR Photo/Tim Nelson

Hundreds of people filled the newly renovated Union Depot in St. Paul on Saturday to celebrate its reopening.

The Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority bought the 33-acre Union Depot site in 2005 and spent $243 million in state, federal, and county funds to renovate it. County, state and federal leaders heralded the renovated structure as a foundation for the Twin Cities' future as a transportation hub.

MetroTransit is starting bus service to Union Depot this weekend, and Jefferson Regional Bus Lines plans to move in in January. Later in 2013, Amtrak is supposed to move in. And in 2014, officials plan for light rail service to arrive at the Union Depot.

Janice Tandler, who lives three blocks from the depot, hoped it will renew public interest in Amtrak, which she said is underused and undervalued.

"If indeed everything happens by next year, I think that is a pretty amazing turnaround time considering the magnitude of the project," Tandler said. "I'll just believe it when it happens, though, because this was talked about some years ago."

Another participant, Steve Glischinski, was 14 when he watched the last passenger train roll out of Union Depot in 1971. He said he never thought he would see trains return.

Glischinski, the author of a book about the history of Minnesota railroads, said the renovated Union Depot is much brighter and more polished now than it was before.

As he stood on a balcony above the crowd at the reopening, Glischinski predicted that Union Depot will gradually develop into the lively transportation hub officials want it to be.

"I think it's being built unlike the United States does a lot of things -- it's being built long term," Glischinski said. "So any growth that comes they can handle it here. So as long as we don't look immediate gratification, I think it will be successful in the long term. I've been waiting for 41 years, so I can wait."

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