Earthquake repairs under way at Union Station

In this file photo, pieces of the ceiling at Union Station are missing and cracks are seen after an earthquake was felt in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011. (AP File Photo/Charles Dharapak)

WASHINGTON — Now that visitors are again enjoying spectacular views from the Washington Monument and earthquake repairs continue at the National Cathedral, a third historic structure is being restored following the rare quake that rattled the capital in August 2011.

The earthquake cracked the 96-foot ceiling in Union Station’s main concourse.

“We’re doing a full restoration which includes a complete regilding of the magnificent ceiling in the main hall,” says Beverley Swaim-Staley, president and CEO of Union Station Redevelopment Corporation.

The barrel-vaulted ceiling is covered with 70 pounds of 22-karat gold leaf.

“The earthquake repairs are under way and they’re going very well,” Swaim-Staley says.

Because of the ceiling’s historic nature, the repair work will take a good deal of time.

“It’s a three-part process. We go in and repair the cracks in the ceiling, replaster and then go in with the paint and then go in with the gilding,” Swaim-Staley says.

It’s expected to take about 2 1/2 years before the main hall can be reopened.

Earthquake repairs aren’t all that’s on the agenda at Union Station — Amtrak’s second-busiest train station in the country, behind New York’s Penn Station.

Amtrak is planning a two-decade, $7 billion facility rehabilitation. Swaim-Staley says the work would allow Amtrak to triple the number of passengers it currently serves and ultimately Amtrak plans to install high speed rail service at the historic station built in 1907.

In the years ahead, developers are planning to build along the tracks north of Union Station. Plans calls for office space, hotels and retail space.

Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, a non-profit group created by Congress, is devoted to protecting the historic architecture of the magnificent building while also ensuring that the transportation center is a commercial success.

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