Union Station

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Charlottesville Union Station is located on West Main Street between the University of Virginia and the Downtown Mall. It is served by three passenger Amtrak routes: the Cardinal, the Crescent, and the Northeast Regional. Since the closure of the C&O station along Water Street in the 1980s,[1][2] it has served as the only passenger train station in Charlottesville.



Currently the Cardinal line, which runs three days per week between Chicago and New York, and the Crescent line, which runs daily between New Orleans and New York, stop in the station. The Northeast Regional services makes daily northbound and southbound stops between Lynchburg and Washington D.C. A second daily Northeast Regional began operating in July 2022. [3][4]

The proposed east-west Commonwealth Corridor service would stop at the station along the C&O tracks used by the Crescent, then transfer to the Norfolk Southern tracks to continue southbound to Lynchburg.


The original Union Station was constructed in 1885 to service the Charlottesville and Rapidan Railroad, the Virginia Midland Railway, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. Renovations in 1915 added a baggage handling facility.[5]

Union Station Partners era

On July 6, 1993, City Council authorized an application for $1 million in federal funds under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act to facilitate renovation of the station, parking, and commercial & residential development, in partnership with Union Station Partners.[6] At the time, the project was hoped to be completed in two years with no city funding, with the developer paying the required 20% local match. A public hearing was held on July 19, 1993.[7] Sam Freilich, a general partner of Union Station Partners, said the project would have a parking structure, landscaping, and bikeways, and construction was expected to begin in spring of 1994. Kurt Wassenaar, another general partner and then-chair of the Board of Architectural Review said the station would include a restaurant, newsstand, and flower shop, while the street level on West Main Street would include retail & residential space as well as a clock tower.

On January 6, 1997, Council held a public hearing and unanimously approved the Union Station site as the location for a proposed transportation plaza with new parking, a police substation, a home base for CPD's Mounted Patrol, and a new transfer station for CTS and UTS buses, for which the city had received a $1.5 million state & federal grant.[8]

The ISTEA grant applied for in 1993 was approved for $762,000 and allocated to the developer at the October 6, 1997 City Council meeting, along with aerial, utility, and other easements.[9]

As of February 16, 1999, the station renovation had occurred with the ISTEA grant, a Virginia Rails and Trails grant of $170,000 had been obtained to improve the platform for Amtrak, an additional $160,000 grant was being pursued for further platform improvements, and a TEA 21 grant application was submitted for a pedestrian link.[10] These improvements consituted Phase IA of the station plan. Phase II was to include a parking structure, transfer station, police substation, and retail space. At that time, proposals for architectural services for the parking structure and transfer station had been issued, and negotiations were underway with one firm.[10]

On March 15, 1999, City Council and Union Station Partners LLC entered into an agreement for a potential multimodal facility at this location.[10][11]

As of November 15, 1999, the Commonwealth Transportation Board was reviewing the bids for the Union Station project, which came in over the estimate.[12]

On March 5, 2001, amid a state budget impasse, Council wrote a letter urging the General Assembly to preserve aid to localities. During the discussion, city manager Gary O'Connell noted that funds for the Union Station project could be frozen.[13]

At the September 18, 2001 Planning Commission meeting, NDS director Jim Tolbert informed the Planning Commission that the $3.5 million in funding for a transfer facility was being moved to the east end of the Downtown Mall because the Union Station project had fallen through. That project became the Downtown Transit Center.[14]

A termination notice was sent by the city to Union Station Partners in 2002, and the partnership formally ended on February 1, 2021 with the reconveyance of Lot 1 (TMP 300002A00) from the city to USP.[15]

During the West Main rezoning process in 2015-16, USP requested that the property be zoned in the less restrictive West Main West zone. The consultants' original proposal placed the portion of the site north of West Main Street and west of Cream Street in WMW and the eastern portion in WME.[16] On May 18, 2015, Council directed the Planning Commission to consider the parcels for inclusion in the proposed West Main East district.[16] On March 21, 2016, Councilors Szakos and Galvin expressed concern about the potential height under WMW zoning, and the property was ultimately rezoned to WME.[17]

Rail Expansion

The state of Virginia approved a three-year $17 million pilot program to create a rail line between Lynchburg and Washington D.C.[18] This daily route would stop in Charlottesville each morning and evening. The service began on October 1, 2009, with trains leaving Lynchburg at 7:43 a.m.[19]

In July 2011, Amtrak began providing a bus service from Roanoke as a one-year pilot project to determine if there would be a market to extend service in the future.[20]

The train was extended to Roanoke beginning in 2017. It is one of the most profitable in the Amtrak network. [citation needed]

A second daily Northeast Regional in each direction began service on July 11, 2022.[4]

Parking lot

A gravel parking lot was a source of tension with the station's neighbors. On windy days, dust blew everywhere, upsetting people like Peter Castiglione, the owner of Maya. He threatened legal action against the lot owner Gabe Silverman, but Silverman and his partners hired a contractor to pave the lot in 2011. [21]


As part of the creation of a state-wide rail plan, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is studying future needs for the station including bringing it up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and potential transit-oriented development. [3] A 2021 effort by DRPT in conjunction with TJPDC and Charlottesville to produce a station study created a draft in March 2021, but was paused recognizing the need for further study. TJDPC applied for a $711,000 federal RAISE grant to complete a Charlottesville regional multimodal transportation station master plan in 2020 and 2021,[22][23] but the grant applications were unsuccessful.

In its FY22-27 Asset Line Plan, Amtrak budgeted $348,000 in FY21 and FY22 for an ADA compliance program plan as well as $320,000 for a Passenger Information Display System, in addition to $2,790,000 in FY23 for construction of ADA upgrades.[24]

As of January 2024, Amtrak has completed 90% design for ADA upgrades to the station and platform. Work is scheduled to be put out for bid between March and July 2024, then to begin between May and September 2024.[25]


  1. Web. Piedmont Subdivision of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway: Charlottesville, retrieved 2022-12-29.
  2. Web. C&O Railway Station, Society of Architectural Historians, retrieved 2022-12-29.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Web. May 4, 2021: Charlottesville Council begins process to remove Confederate statues; Virginia Passenger Rail Authority gets update on rail plans, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Community Engagement, Town Crier Productions, May 4, 2021, retrieved May 11, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Web. Roanoke Amtrak expansion rolling: Significant ridership increase predicted, Roanoke Times, July 11, 2022, retrieved 2022-12-29.
  5. Web. Todd's Railfan Guide to Charlottesville, Railfan Guides of the U.S., retrieved 2022-12-29.
  6. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, July 6, 1993.
  7. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, July 19, 1993.
  8. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, January 6, 1997.
  9. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, October 6, 1997.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, February 16, 1999.
  11. Web. March 15, 1999 Charlottesville City Council meetings, Minutes, City of Charlottesville, retrieved January 31, 2021.
  12. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, November 15, 1999.
  13. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, March 5, 2001.
  14. Web. Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting minutes, .pdf, City of Charlottesville, September 18, 2001.
  15. Web. [http://weblink.charlottesville.org/public/ElectronicFile.aspx?docid=797758&dbid=0#page=115 Union Station Partnership Reconveyance of TMP 300002A00 and Associated Easements], Chris Engel, Director of Economic Development, Staff Report, February 1, 2021, retrieved January 31, 2021.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Web. Charlottesville Planning Commission meeting minutes, .pdf, City of Charlottesville, February 9, 2016.
  17. Web. Charlottesville City Council meeting minutes, .pdf, Council Chambers, City of Charlottesville, March 21, 2016.
  18. Web. Passenger rail picks up speed, Rachana Dixit, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, December 7, 2008, retrieved 2022-12-29.
  19. Web. Schedule for new daily train service unlikely to change, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, August 28, 2009, retrieved September 15, 2009.
  20. Web. Roanoke's bus connector to Lynchburg draws a crowd, Ray Reed, Lynchburg News & Advance, July 19, 2011, retrieved July 19, 2011.
  21. Web. Paving imminent for dusty West Main lot, Chiara Canzi, C-VILLE Weekly, Portico Publications, retrieved February 23, 2011. Print. February 22, 2011 .
  22. Web. Resolution Supporting TJPDCs Raise Grantapplication To Fund A Charlottesville Regional Multimodal Transportation Station Master Plan, Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, June 3, 2021, retrieved 2024-01-18.
  23. Web. Planning to upgrade Charlottesville's Union Station, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Community Engagement, Town Crier Productions, June 14, 2021, retrieved 2024-01-18.
  24. Web. Stations Appendices | Amtrak's FY 2022-2027 Service and Asset Line Plans, Amtrak, April 5, 2022, retrieved 2024-01-18.
  25. Correspondence between Rory Stolzenberg and Amtrak. January 18, 2024.

External links