St. Paul Union Depot receives first Amtrak train

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St. Paul, Minn.’s Union Depot received its first ever Amtrak train Wednesday night, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports

The train arrived at the recently refurbished transit hub at 11:13 p.m., as it was making its way from Chicago to Portland, Ore., and Seattle on Amtrak’s Empire Builder route. 

Prior to the redevelopment of the St. Paul Union Depot earlier this year, Amtrak trains stopped in St. Paul’s nearby Midway Station that is now closed, according to the report.

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The paper said Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman hailed the relocation of Amtrak service to the city’s historic transit hub as a banner day for rail service in the St. Paul area. 

“When Amtrak began May 1 of 1971 — 43 years ago last week — it didn't serve this station," Boardman said. 

President Obama touted the renovation of St. Paul’s Union Depot train station, which was paid for in part with money from the 2009 economic stimulus package, during a trip to Minneapolis in February 

“This project symbolizes what’s possible,” Obama said during a speech unveiling his proposal for a new $302 billion transportation funding bill. 

“Union Depot was renovated and expanded with the help of what we call TIGER grants,” Obama continued. “These are competitive grants that we created as part of the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus, which actually worked — despite what everybody claims.” 

Obama also applauded the planned extension of Minneapolis’s Metro light rail system to St. Paul, which is scheduled to connect to Union Depot when it opens next month. 

“I just had a chance to take a look at some of those spiffy new trains,” Obama said of the light railway. “They are nice, and they’re energy efficient. They’re going to be reliable. You can get from one downtown to the other in a little over 30 minutes instead of, when it’s snowing, being in traffic for two hours."

St. Paul officials said that re-establishing Amtrak service to compliment the light railway was a big part of their vision for the renovated Union Depot, according to the report. 

“Our beautifully restored building is achieving our vision as a multimodal transit facility and a unique gathering place for people," the paper said Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega said during a ceremony honoring the return of Amtrak to the station.