More than 800 people flocked to Chicago's premier recycled building materials clearing house, the Rebuilding Exchange, last week in search of a piece of Chicago history. The nonprofit was auctioning off chunks of the Chicago Transit Authority's (CTA) Madison-Wabash CTA El Station, which will be replaced next year. Buyers included an ice cream parlor, a theater company, an art studio, and various individuals intrigued by the defunct station's benches, signs, railing sections, pressed tin sheets, and vintage doors. “We did not auction off the facades—those are being stored here for up to two years until a history museum can take them,” said Caitlin Grey, outreach coordinator for the Rebuilding Exchange. “Almost everything sold the night of except for some screens, decking, joists and doors. Over the weekend almost everything else sold. We still have a door, decking and joists.” Chicago recycles as much as two-thirds of its construction and demolition debris, but other municipal recycling programs are lagging. As for what will become of the old station's downtown location, renderings show a clean white plane sheltered by rows of knife-like brise-soleils. The so-called “Gateway to Millennium Park” will replace both the Randolph-Wabash and Madison-Wabash stations, and is designed by Chicago-based exp, formerly known as Teng + Associates.
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How many people get on the train at your "El" or Metra stop each day? Which county's roads make for the roughest ride? How long do Chicago-area drivers while away waiting for train crossings? The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) just unveiled a new tool to stir discussion about transportation in the greater Chicago area that can answer all of those questions, as well as many more about the regional transportation system as a whole. CMAP planners said they hope the interactive website, which is full of clickable maps and tables compiled from mountains of public data, will resonate with policy makers as well as frustrated commuters. When it comes to transportation infrastructure, Chicago has an embarrassment of riches—and a wealth of problems. Some 25 percent of the nation's freight traffic travels through the region, but the seven-county region's 1,468 rail crossings snarl traffic for a total delay of 7,817 person-hours every day. In total traffic ate up more than $6 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2011 across the roughly 30,000 miles of roads in Cook, Lake, McHenry, Will, Kane, Kendall and DuPage Counties. As the authors of GO TO 2040, the 2010 comprehensive plan that sought to renew Daniel Burnham's regional vision, CMAP officials said they made the website to encourage more data-driven planning and regional policy. The website gives a mixed assessment of public transit in the region. While 71.5 percent of residents had at least moderate access to transit, progress on increasing that share of people has occurred at a slower rate so far than will be necessary to meet the 2040 goal of 78 percent, CMAP's analysis shows. Although Chicago lauds its growing open data culture, CMAP's Tom Garritano said arbitrary policies persist. For example Illinois' 55/45 rule, whereby 55 percent of highway funds typically go downstate, while only 45 percent stay in the Chicago region—despite the fact that more than two-thirds of the state's population and economic activity occurs in and around its largest city. “We believe strongly that the best decisions are driven by data,” said Garritano. “We want people to get excited about data.” While the website shows the region has made considerable progress on meeting GO TO 2040 goals in recent years, CMAP officials stressed that stats inflated with stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 may paint a rosier picture of transportation infrastructure's finances. CMAP pointed to the declining share of crumbling roads and bridges in the area—without continued funding for maintenance, they said, that progress would soon be overwhelmed by mounting infrastructure repair needs. More than half of non-highway roads in Cook County were judged less than “acceptable,” but that figure was less than 10 percent in McHenry and Kendall counties. More than 300 bridges in the Chicago area were deemed “structurally deficient” in 2013—a distinction CMAP pointed out does not mean they are necessarily dangerous, just below civil engineering standards. The total share of deficient bridges in the area was 9.7 percent, slightly below the national average of 11.1 percent. A section of the site named “Forward” links to a public-private fundraising campaign called FUND 2040. Last year CMAP called for a quarter-penny sales tax hike that would net $300 million per year for infrastructure work. “Metropolitan Chicago must compete globally against regions whose public investments have for decades far outpaced our own,” reads the site. “Current infrastructure funding mechanisms are simply not adequate to meet our region's infrastructure needs.” New spending, however needed, is politically risky in fiscally troubled Illinois, but CMAP's ideological influence recently got a boost in Springfield. The agency's executive director, Randy Blankenhorn, was recently appointed to head the Illinois Department of Transportation by incoming Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.
Patrons of the Chicago Transit Authority's 91-year-old Wilson station (above) on the El's Red Line will be happy to learn the city broke ground this week on its long-planned, $203 million Wilson Station Reconstruction Project. The track structure is more than 100 years old. The Uptown station has been somewhat of a squeaky wheel in the CTA system, with neighborhood residents calling for improvements for years. The new station house will be ADA-compliant and, as CTA explained, feature myriad other improvements:
The project will also include significant track and structural work that will allow for easy and convenient transfers between the Red Line and Purple Line Express; enhance the street-level environment on Broadway; and improve CTA operations. New, brighter lighting and the installation of more than 100 security cameras throughout the stations and its three entrances will help improve customer safety. Additionally, the restoration of the 1923 stationhouse facade and former clock tower (at the corner of Wilson/Broadway) would make it a viable space for future retail or business development, thus creating an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.It's one of the biggest (and costliest) overhauls in CTA history, and is part of the agency's $1 billion "Red Ahead" initiative to modernize the north branch of the Red and Purple Lines. CTA rebuilt the south branch last year, streamlining construction with massive closures—a strategy that angered some area residents. Elsewhere on the Red Line, 95th Street—the line's southern terminus—is getting an inspired revamp led by Parsons Brinkerhoff and Johnson & Lee, with art from Theaster Gates.
Move over Morgan—the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) released renderings Monday of a redesign for the ‘L’ station at Washington-Wabash whose modern look could unseat the sleek Morgan as CTA’s most handsome stop. The so-called “Gateway to Millennium Park” will serve the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink and Purple lines by consolidating two Loop stations: Randolph-Wabash and Madison-Wabash. Replacing two century old stops, it will be the first new ‘L’ stop in the Loop since the Library/State-Van Buren station was built in 1997. Chicago-based exp, formerly known as Teng + Associates, designed the bone white, undulating station. The color and curvature call to mind Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum, or perhaps a ribcage. With 13,375 daily entries, it’s expected to become the fifth busiest CTA station on weekdays, according to city estimates. Scheduled to open in 2016, the station will feature 100 percent LED lighting, bike racks, and “a significant amount” of recycled material. The reveal follows news of the planned McCormick-Cermak CTA station, designed by Chicago’s Ross Barney Architects (Ross Barney also designed the system’s newest stop, Morgan Station). Construction on the $75 million station is scheduled to begin in 2014. That money will come entirely from the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) program.