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Chicago Union Station designated as USDOT 'emerging project'

Chicago Rahm Emanuel announced Chicago Union Station has been designated an "emerging project" under the USDOT's Build America Bureau.
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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Build America Bureau and city of Chicago are entering an Emerging Projects Agreement (EmPA) under which the city will work with the department to seek up to $1 billion in federal funding for an ambitious plan to modernize Union Station and the West Loop area.

The agreement was announced yesterday by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Amtrak, Metra, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and USDOT.

"The Build America Bureau makes it easier for big multimodal projects like Chicago's Union Station to move forward. This project will serve as a vital hub for rail and transit and connect the entire region," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release issued by Amtrak. "I'm confident that the bureau will continue to be a great partner for Chicago and cities across the country to build seamless, modern transportation networks in the years ahead."

The agreement "marks a major step forward" in the future of the Amtrak-owned station and Chicago's economy, Emanuel said in the release.

"This modernization effort will improve the experience for everyone who travels through Union Station and tap the potential that the station has to serve as an anchor for further economic development of the West Loop and surrounding neighborhoods," the mayor said.

The EmPA allows USDOT to offer enhanced technical assistance on complex, large-scale projects seeking low-cost federal credit through Build America Bureau programs such as the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF).

The city and its transportation department are working with Amtrak, Metra, the RTA and the Illinois Department of Transportation on the design of near-term improvements to Union Station that will increase passenger capacity by renovating and expanding the concourse and platforms. A master plan process for the modernization project also addresses service, safety, environmental, accessibility and mobility issues around the station.

"This is another milestone in all of our efforts to improve Union Station to make it a world-class transportation facility for a world-class city," said Ray Lang, Amtrak senior director, national state relations. "All of this is happening because all of us are working together as partners."

Amtrak is in the final stages of evaluating proposals for a master developer to lead the redevelopment of the station, surrounding Amtrak property and air rights, Amtrak officials said.

Union Station redevelopment plans envision a public-private partnership to implement transportation improvements as well as transit-oriented developments, they added.

Improvements that could be funded under the new agreement involve:
• renovation of the Canal Street Union Station lobby;
• rehabilitation of the Great Hall skylight and dome structure;
• renovation and expansion of the Adams Street and Jackson Street entrances;
• expansion of the Union Station Concourse;
• widening of platforms;
• improvement of Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility throughout the station;
• reconstruction of the Canal Street and Harrison Street viaducts; and
• construction of pedestrian tunnels connecting Union Station to Metra's Ogilvie Station and to the Chicago Transit Authority's Blue Line stop at Clinton Street.

"This Emerging Project Agreement puts the redevelopment of the station in position for financing opportunities that could allow the work to proceed more quickly and at a lower cost," said Metra Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Don Orseno. "These improvements will provide relief to the 55,000 Metra riders who use Union Station each weekday and allow the station to accommodate growth in the future."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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