United States District Court, District of Columbia
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORP. (AMTRAK), Plaintiff,
3.44 ACRES MORE OR LESS OF LAND AND BUILDING located at 900 2ndStreet NE, Washington, DC 20002-3557, et al., Defendants.
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States District Judge
National Railroad Passenger Corporation, known by all as
“Amtrak, ” can take “interests in
property” by eminent domain where those interests are
“necessary for intercity rail passenger
transportation.” 49 U.S.C. § 24311(a)(1)(A).
Relying on this authority, Amtrak filed suit in July 2015 to
condemn two parcels of land owned by Defendant Fluorine LLC
that sit adjacent to Washington Union Station.
has filed a motion for partial summary judgment challenging
Amtrak's statutory authority to take one of the parcels,
which contains an office building and an underground parking
garage. It reads the statute governing Amtrak's
acquisitions narrowly as requiring absolute, last-resort
necessity, and it contends that the parcel is not
indispensable to Amtrak's operations. Amtrak responds in
a cross-motion that the condemnation is amply justified under
§ 24311 because Amtrak has reasonably deemed the
property necessary to further its goals. For the reasons that
follow, the Court will grant Amtrak's motion and deny
iconic Union Station is Amtrak's headquarters and one of
its busiest rail stations. Since 2012, defendant Fluorine LLC
has owned two adjacent parcels of land just north of Union
Station. The parcels hug the west side of 2nd Street
Northeast and abut the east side of the railroad tracks that
head north out of Union Station. The first parcel, Lot 814,
contains a surface parking lot with an electrical substation
beneath it. The other, Lot 812, contains an office building
called the Railway Express Agency Building (“REA
Building”) and an underground parking garage. Together,
the lots comprise nearly 110, 000 square feet.
Amtrak leased office space in the REA Building and had
additional access to it through various easements. At the
time Amtrak condemned the lots, it was the building's
largest tenant-it leased almost 35, 000 square feet, or 30%
of its leasable space. Amtrak also controlled an underpass
below Union Station that extends under the H Street Bridge
and connects with the parking garage beneath the REA
building. It previously granted Fluorine's predecessor an
easement to use that underpass for vehicle access and
of its efforts to develop the Northeast Corridor railway line
from Boston to Washington, D.C., Amtrak in 2012 began
devising a plan to rehabilitate and expand Union Station.
Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 22, at 11:6-12:1. The result was
an omnibus “Union Station Master Plan, ” which
contemplated Amtrak's “reconstruction of all tracks
[and] platforms, creating a series of new concourses below
the tracks, ” and overall sought to “provide
safer, more efficient, more accessible services for
passengers and for employees.” Id. Ex. 23, at
the next three years, Amtrak studied how best to expand the
station's capacity and, as part of this process,
commissioned a report assessing the possible acquisition of
the two parcels at issue. Id. at 31:15-34:8. That
2012 report considered the operational and financial
consequences of the possible purchase, and in the end
recommended acquisition. Id. at 33:16- 22; see
also Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. D (sealed report).
January 2015, after further study, Amtrak personnel created a
presentation for its Board of Directors proposing
Amtrak's acquisition of the REA Building, as well as the
adjacent parking lot and air rights above it. See
Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 32. The proposal explained that
Amtrak needed to own the parcels to address six
“Strategic Issues” related to the Union Station
Master Plan. Id. at 8. First, Amtrak required
“access to a portion of the REA property” to
construct a new, expanded railroad track. Id. at 9.
Second, Amtrak sought to gain control over its “40
easements across, under and above” the parking lot and
its subsurface easements running beneath the REA Building.
Id. at 11. Third, once the tracks were reconfigured
pursuant to the Master Plan, the REA Building would provide
“the only access” for emergency vehicles to the
tracks. Id. at 12. Fourth, the parking lot was
“the only suitable space” for constructing
improvements to the lower-level tracks. Id. at 13.
Fifth, to accommodate new and future expansion, Amtrak needed
to relocate several structures currently housed in the
western part of Union Station's rail yard. Id.
Finally, the presentation identified a need for
“emergency pedestrian egress pathways and control of
[the] H Street Underpass, ” through which Fluorine had
an easement. Id. at 8.
2015, Amtrak's Board of Directors approved a resolution
authorizing Amtrak to purchase Lots 812 and 814 or, if unable
to strike a deal, to condemn them by eminent domain.
See Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 9, at 15-16. The
resolution declared that Amtrak's acquisition of the
building was “necessary for Amtrak's intercity rail
passenger transportation” id. at 16, noting
that Amtrak provided rail service “over numerous
essential easements located throughout the property on which
the REA Building is located, ” id. at 15.
weeks after the resolution passed, Amtrak sent a letter to
Fluorine offering to purchase the two lots for $35 million.
Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 34. Fluorine rejected the offer
three days later in a one-line letter: “Thank you for
your interest. Fluorine, LLC has no intent [o]n selling the
property.” Id. Ex. 35.
then brought this condemnation action in July 2015. As
required by 49 U.S.C. § 24311(b)(1), Amtrak filed a
declaration (a) stating “the public use for which the
interest is taken”; (b) describing the property; (c)
stating the interest in the property; (d) “showing the
interest taken”; and (e) estimating just compensation
for the interest taken. See Decl. of Taking (ECF No.
3). It also deposited $35 million with the Court as an
estimate of just compensation. Id. ¶ 16.
months after Amtrak commenced this action, the parties
stipulated to Amtrak's acquisition of the property but
reserved “Fluorine's right to contest the validity
of Amtrak's taking.” Joint Stipulation and Order 3
(ECF No. 23). Following discovery, both Amtrak and Fluorine
moved for partial summary judgment on the sole question of
whether Amtrak was permitted to take Lot 812, the parcel
containing the REA Building and the underground parking
garage. The Court held a hearing on the cross-motions on
August 29, 2017.
Standard of Review
is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings and other
materials in the record show that there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving
party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “[A] material
fact is ‘genuine' . . . if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party” on a particular claim. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).