While Chicago’s Union Station recently celebrated the opening of Amtrak’s new Metropolitan Lounge, an ambitious, long-term master plan for 91-year-old Beaux-Arts structure is moving forward with a newly-announced design partner and funding mechanism. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, UK-based global architectural and engineering firm Arup will be responsible for the first phase of the Union Station Master Plan — a 2012 collaborative document penned by Amtrak, Metra, Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), and other local stakeholders.
Phase one is expected to consist of 14 specific improvements to nation's third busiest train station, with the majority of attention given to the tracks, platforms, pedestrian passageways, and ventilation system inside the building. In addition to adding capacity and improving passenger comfort, Arup will design new direct pedestrian connections linking Union Station to Metra’s Ogilvie Transportation Center as well as the CTA’s Blue Line.
The Union Station Master Plan is not to be confused with the separate albeit simultaneous Union Station Master Development Plan which is moving forward to develop the air rights over the Headhouse Building, nearby parking parking garage, and additional Amtrak-owned assets. Still seeking a partner, the Union Station’s Master Development Plan completed its request for information (RFI) back in May and has moved to the official request for qualifications (RFQ) phase of negotiations.
In addition to announcing Arup as lead design and engineering partner, Union Station’s phase one overhaul also has a new source of local funding. Recently passed tax increment finance (TIF) legislation now grants the city the power to create special transportation-specific tax districts within a half-mile of ‘L’ lines and Union Station’s main building.
The new value capture mechanism would create a pool of funds that the federal government would then match under existing transportation grant programs. According to the Chicago Tribune, the legislation is also expected to help fund the CTA’s Belmont fly-over, improvements to the Forest Park Blue Line, and the upcoming 95th Street Red Line terminal.
Union’s Phase One improvements are expected to cost $200 million. Later long-term phases, which may include enlarging and/or completely rebuilding Union Station in the 200 or 300 blocks of South Canal, could push the final price tag closer to $500 million.
- Design team chosen for phase one of Union Station project [Chicago Sun-Times]
- New TIF districts may greenlight Belmont flyover, other transit projects [Chicago Tribune]
- A Look at Union Station's Ambitious Restoration and Redevelopment Plans [Curbed Chicago]
- Chicago Transportation archives [Curbed Chicago]