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For the first time since its closure more than 40 years ago, St. Paul’s historic Union Depot will once again be open for business beginning this Saturday. The depot was put out of commission, thanks to restructuring of area rail service in 1971, but in 2006 the Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA) purchased the 33-acre site with an eye toward transforming it into a “multimodal transportation hub.” Transit ambitions for the site include bus service, bicycles and taxis, and eventually Amtrak, light rail, intercity bus service, commuter rail and high-speed rail to Chicago.

The Union Depot project has provided a number of significant opportunities for public artists in the region, commissioning murals, furnishings and an assortment of other small-scale, “surprising amenities” to enhance the site. In early 2013, Jefferson Regional Bus Lines are slated to set up shop at Union Depot, providing intercity bus service; One-on-One Bike Studio will also open a full-service bicycle center. Later in the year, Amtrak Twin Cities station will begin service, followed in 2014 with a stop for the Central Corridor Light Rail’s Green Line.

Photo courtesy of Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA)

Now that the $243 million restoration of the old Union Depot is complete, the RCRRA is hosting a day-long public celebration to kick off the resumption of Metro Transit service at the site on Saturday. In the morning, a cavalcade of public officials – Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Senator Amy Klobuchar, Ramsey County Commissioners Jim McDonough and Rafael Ortega, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and more – will offer their official benedictions and congratulations for the site’s revival.

There will be food vendors on site and activities scheduled throughout the day, including historical re-enactments  and performances by Harding High School pep band and drum line, Bedlam Theatre and Sendero Flamenco; you’ll also be able to pick up a sweet commemorative poster created by local designer Adam Turman. Transit partners will be on hand to give public tours of the new facility and provide detailed information on present and future transportation offerings available at the site. The day’s festivities will conclude with Family Movie Night: a free public screening of Elf in the Union Depot waiting room beginning at 5 p.m.

Saturday’s public event celebrating the restoration of transit service at the historic site, “Bringing Down the Wall,” will take place at the Union Depot in Lowertown, Saturday, December 8 from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. 214, 4th Street East, St. Paul. Metro Transit will offer free rides to Union Depot on Route 21 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Find more information on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/uniondepot, and beginning in January 2013, keep track of Union Depot news and events via their new website, www.uniondepot.org.

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