The senior U.S. senator from Pennsylvania is asking Amtrak to speed up its plans to fix up 30th Street Station before the masses arrive to see Pope Francis and take part in the Democratic National Convention.
Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., made a public push for quick improvements during a speech inside the station's historic arrivals hall on Wednesday morning.
The senator said the 82-year-old station should have better dining and retail options for the 11 million visitors it handles each year. It also needs upgrades to basic services like bathrooms, he said.
"I've been to the restrooms. I know what they're like. There are a lot of good things about them, [but] just like you have to upgrade a house, you need basic changes," he said.
City officials are expecting some 2 million visitors to descend on Philadelphia in September when Pope Francis visits to take part in the World Meeting of Families conference and celebrate mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The following summer, in July 2016, thousands of Democrats will come to the city to choose their next candidate for President of the United States during the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
In addition to the public plea, Casey sent a letter outlining his ask to Amtrak's CEO.
"This historic facility provides for many visitors the first introduction to Philadelphia, or Pennsylvania as a whole, and we need to ensure it presents the best picture of what the Commonwealth has to offer for the millions of visitors that come to Philadelphia each year," Casey wrote in the letter.
An external renovation of the station, which is Amtrak's third busiest, has been ongoing. A new western plaza is under construction, new signage is being installed and the infrastructure below the station is being renovated.
Casey said Amtrak has already drawn up plans to revitalize the station's interior and he urged them to move forward quickly. He said the station could offer similar dining and shopping options to Union Station in Washington, D.C., which has fast food and full-service restaurants as well as a shopping center.
"I want it to be the best place that it can be," he said.
Amtrak spokesman Craig Schultz said the publicly-funded corporation appreciates Casey's support.
"We support the Senator’s call for both long- and near-term improvements to this nearly 100-year-old historic building and will work closely with all the stakeholders involved to identify funding and support for priority projects that are consistent with the vision we are now developing under the 30th Street Station District Plan with our various partners," Schultz said.
Casey said the interior renovation would most likely need a lot of private financial support before it could come to fruition. He said there doesn't appear to be additional federal funds available.