(HorizonPost.com) – A District judge in Washington on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging Amtrak taking over the lease for DC’s Union Station, the Daily Caller reported.
Amtrak currently subleases about 13 percent of the building from the current leaseholder, Union Station Investco, including the ticketing area and train concourse. However, Amtrak is seeking to take over the full lease, claiming that it needs full control to modernize the facility.
In a lawsuit filed in April 2022, Amtrak argued that it has a right to take over the full lease under a law that enables it to acquire property using eminent domain if it is “necessary for intercity rail passenger transportation.”
During a hearing before US District Judge Amit Mehta in September, Amtrak CEO Steven Gardner argued that there was a “mismatch” between Amtrak’s goals and the goals of Union Station Invesco and noted that allowing Amtrak to take over the lease “would take away that interference and distraction.”
The lawsuit was filed the day after the deadline passed for Amtrak’s $250 million offer. According to court documents, an appraisal cited by Union Station Invesco valued the station at a minimum of $700 million.
Union Station is owned by the Federal Railroad Administration. More than 40 years ago, Congress passed the Union Station Redevelopment Act that awarded the lease to a private company.
Union Station Invesco, which is owned by Rexmark, questioned Amtrak’s claim that it could use eminent domain to take over the full lease. In its filing, the company argued that Amtrak was attempting to “wrongfully use its limited condemnation power to obtain a property interest” for financial reasons rather than a need to “provide the public intercity rail travel.”
Union Station Invesco argued that Amtrak waited until after the company had navigated Union Station through the pandemic to “swoop in” and attempt to take the station “for pennies on the dollar” once things improved.
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