A unified push to revamp Union Station: Today’s Juice
Specifically, in an unprecedented but unheralded (until now) action, Amtrak and the states of Illinois and Michigan, joined by Metra, Chicago and Cook County, are working together to seek a huge grant as part of President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, envisioning what eventually would be $850 million in work in and around the historic train depot.
Some of the work is in the station, including engineering for a complete rebuild of the station’s beyond-outmoded engineering system, $30 million or so for internal redesign to make the station flow better, and both engineering and construction to open a badly needed new platform by rebuilding the long abandoned mail-train platform. With sidings, according to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari, it will be able to handle four trains at once, something that those who have had to wait for a clear track to finish their trip will appreciate.
The bigger part of the first phase is outside the station. It will focus on building new track and realigning and making better use of the St. Charles Air Line bridge in the South Loop. Doing so will allow Metra to run trains south using Metra Electric and Rock Island tracks rather than relying on often congested Canadian National freight tracks.
That should allow both Metra and Amtrak trains to travel faster.
The work also will allow direct service from O’Hare International Airport to McCormick Place via Union Station—a key move that high-speed rail advocates consider a crucial piece of their plans for fast passenger trains nationwide.