After years of rumors, Chicago’s Union Station improvement project has taken its first steps forward with the announcement of a lead designer.
The global design and engineering firm Arup has been tapped to carry out a total of 13 upgrades to the station, which include expanding concourses and platforms as well as adding a new ventilation system.
Amtrak, who is in charge of the renovation effort, owns the station as well as the air rights. Earlier in the year they sent out a request for information to developers in order to choose a firm who could handle the master plan.
Union Station the third-busiest rail terminal in the U.S., after New York’s Grand Central and Penn Station. The vast majority of its 120,000 daily riders use Metra, Chicago’s commuter railroad. According to Metra board chairman Marty Oberman, the station wasn’t set up to support such a large volume of people when it opened in 1925.
Outlining the major issues that needed to be addressed by the renovation, Oberman told the Chicago Sun Times that “the platforms were built for another era. They’re far too narrow. When we have weather back-ups and so forth, we can have very serious crowd control problems with the way this station is designed. The concourse has way outlived its usefulness…We all know that the ventilation system desperately needs to be redone. We hear about that constantly from our passengers.”
Amtrak has not yet put a price tag on these improvements, although Oberman suggested it would add up to “several hundred million dollars.” Daily commuters, who have long lamented the difficulty in navigating the aging station, will likely consider the improvements long overdue.