Congresswoman McCollum's Remarks on the Union Depot Grand Reopening

December 8, 2012

Thank you so much Jim. And good morning to everyone! This is a great day for St. Paul, for the East Metro, and for our entire region.

Many of us were filled with memories as we passed through the doors today. I remember coming to the Union Depot as a young girl to take the train to Montana to visit my grandfather. The majesty of this space filled me with wonder, and left an impression I carried with me my whole life.

Soon after I was elected to Congress, I was invited to return to the Depot for the first time since childhood. At that time, a handful of visionary local leaders had a big idea. They wanted to restore the Depot to its former glory and re-claim this building as a multi-modal transportation hub for the new century.

When I walked through these doors a decade ago, the majesty I remembered was long gone.

  • This Depot was empty, cold and dark.
  • Pigeons flew overhead.
  • Windows were darkened and broken.   
  • Most spaces were abandoned.  

I believed in the big vision from the start. But we all knew there were big obstacles ahead. Dozens of local, state and national groups had to join forces. The US Post Office would need to move its operations out of the concourse. Amtrak had to be convinced to return service to the Depot, and over $240 million had to be found – somewhere.

Many said it could not be done. But, after more than a decade of work, we gather today to re-dedicate a Minnesota monument, and a national treasure. Rescued from history; reclaimed for the future.

Many people share the credit for this landmark accomplishment. I encourage you to take the time to look at this poster listing all the partners. Every one of these organizations, and many more individuals, deserve recognition. These leaders remained patient and committed through difficult moments.

Step by step, year by year, the partnership grew and progress continued. Business, labor, and government at all levels worked together to turn vision into reality. Together, we have created a new center of commerce that will create opportunity for generations, and a public space to be proud of.

Today's celebration marks the end of a long road to renovation. It is also the beginning of a new era of transportation – not only for St. Paul and the East Metro, but the entire region. The East and West Metro will share this transportation hub like we share the airport.

The federal government invested nearly $150 million in the Union Depot because it is the new transportation center for the entire Upper Midwest region. The Union Depot will not only connect St. Paul and Minneapolis, but someday Rochester, Duluth, Eau Claire, Fargo and Chicago.

  • 300 Met Transit buses start arriving today.
  • In a few short months, Jefferson Bus Lines and Amtrak begin service.
  • Soon the Central Corridor will run to Minneapolis and the Gateway Corridor to Woodbury.
  • Then express buses to the airport and much, much more.

And have no doubt that Senator Klobuchar and I will keep working in Congress to build High Speed Rail to Chicago, and fulfill the vision Chairman Oberstar set out years ago!

Every new transportation connection creates jobs, makes our region more competitive and gives families and businesses more choices. That is why we are going to fight as hard to expand transportation services into the Depot as we did to bring the Depot back to life--and it was a hard fight.

This project was not easy, it was not quick, and it was not without controversy. But the success of this project shows that our state and nation can do big things.

At a time when our country is facing gridlock, this Depot reminds us of what’s possible when we work together. Not only in transportation, but every aspect of our economy and public life.

This building stands a symbol of progress and partnership that should give us confidence to keep moving forward and embolden all of us to keep thinking big. 

Congratulations to everyone who helped make today possible. This success is shared by many, and this Depot belongs to all.

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