A Landmark's Own Landmark

The central clock at Kansas City's Union Station

OK, it's not a road, but it's still an important part of Missouri transportation history. It's the interior waiting hall of Kansas City's Union Station, an important passenger and freight-train terminal from 1914 until rail traffic declined and the station closed in 1985.

The historic structure sat unused, leaking and crumbling, while the city and a firm with development rights fought over the development firm's failure to find new uses for the building. Kansas City finally got Union Station back in April 1994. I was in Union Station when it was opened to the public for the first time in years. It was leaking, cold, and musty, but the station was as majestic as ever. Clearly, an important piece of Kansas City's past had to be preserved.

Fortunately, Kansas City-area voters felt the same way. A unique sales tax collected in both the Missouri and the Kansas counties of the Kansas City metropolitan area funded reconstruction beginning in 1997. The restored building opened in 1999.

Once again, Kansas Citians can "meet at the clock", the landmark fixture of the waiting hall where so many people met passengers arriving and departing on the railroads. Even though Union Station now functions as a railroad and science museum, Amtrak has built a small passenger station in one corner of the building, returning passenger train service once again to Union Station.