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Vice President uses visit to St. Paul’s renovated Union Depot to illustrate 2009 law’s impact

ST. PAUL -- Vice President Joe Biden, a self-described "train guy," visited St. Paul's Union Depot station Thursday to commemorate the 2009 stimulus bill that partly funded its renovation. The Depot, which had once been thriving, closed in 1971 a...

Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with hybrid metro transit driver William Byrd in St. Paul Thursday, February 18, 2016. He was in town to commemorate the 7th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Afterwards he visited Wellstone Center and Fire Station 8 in downtown St. Paul. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)


ST. PAUL -- Vice President Joe Biden, a self-described “train guy,” visited St. Paul’s Union Depot station Thursday to commemorate the 2009 stimulus bill that partly funded its renovation.

The Depot, which had once been thriving, closed in 1971 after years of declining traffic. It opened in 2012 after a $243 million renovation package that included $35 million in stimulus funds and almost $90 million in other federal money. Ramsey County kicked in $105 million and the state of Minnesota paid $14 million.

Biden visited a hybrid Metro Transit bus built in St. Cloud and met with local leaders before addressing an invitation-only crowd of more than 100 guests. In his speech, Biden praised the stimulus bill and the impact of Union Depot and talked about the need for mass transit to help connect workers with jobs in new urban and suburban environments.


The vice president did not address criticisms of Union Depot, which last year brought in $1.7 million in revenues but had $7.7 million in costs.

After his Union Depot visit, Biden spoke to anti-domestic violence activists at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul and met with St. Paul firefighters at the department’s downtown station.

Here’s what Biden said in his visit to St. Paul:

-On his visit: “The reason I’m here at Union Depot is to show what private-public partnerships are all about, how they can stimulate investments.”

-On Union Depot’s impact: “(Ramsey) County commissioners understood that if you made the transit hub an anchor, it would begin the revitalization of the Lowertown neighborhood. … It’s attracting residents, new businesses, new bars for millennials, new condos.”

-On the stimulus bill: “We have created more jobs in this country, because of projects like this, since we came to office, than every other industrial country in the world combined. So I make no apology for a stimulus.”

-On a Metro Transit hybrid bus: “Close the door, I’m driving. I used to drive a bus. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. I’m ready to take off on this thing. But I don’t have my chauffeur’s license any more. I think I’d get arrested.”

-On fighting domestic violence: “What we are trying to do is make it clear that there is nothing manly about laying your hand on a woman.”


-On firefighters: “I think you guys are the single most underappreciated group - I mean this sincerely - group of Americans that exist.”

-On a baby crying during his speech: “Don’t worry about that. I am used to that, and I like that sound better than the sound of my own voice.”

-On the more than 8,000 Amtrak trips he’s taken in his life: “My dad would define that as a misspent adulthood.”

-The Republican response: Republican Party of Minnesota chairman Keith Downey used the occasion of Biden’s visit to criticize Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Downey implied Biden might reconsider his announced decision to not run for president this year because of Clinton’s struggles. “Drawing attention to such a slow economic recovery and reminding workers, especially women and minorities, that their job and income prospects have stagnated is probably not going to help his chances, nor Mrs. Clinton’s for that matter,” Downey said in a statement.

-The visit’s disruptions: The vice presidential motorcade snarled traffic around downtown St. Paul as it traveled from Union Depot to the West Side and then back to downtown, before leaving for the airport shortly after 4 p.m. Biden’s visit to St. Paul ran behind schedule, and he apologized on several occasions Thursday afternoon for the impact his presence had on traffic.

Despite Biden taking over much of Union Depot for his midday event, trains and buses continued humming around the depot Thursday.

“We tried really hard to make accommodations,” said Deborah Carter McCoy, spokeswoman for the Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority.

An Amtrak train arrived and departed on schedule Thursday morning, the Green Line light rail ran despite Biden’s presence, the MegaBus and a casino bus continued their service, and Jefferson Lines still picked up passengers but shuttled them to another location to catch their longer distance buses. MetroTransit buses set up an alternative pickup spot nearby for local passengers during the vice president’s visit.

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