Metra is proposing to renovate the Van Buren Street Station on the Metra Electric Line. The Van Buren Street Station, designed by Illinois Central Railroad in 1896, is one of the oldest stations in the Metra system. The station was constructed below grade and sits within the boundaries of Grant Park. The station is east of the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Van Buren Street (see the project location map below).
The station is served by trains from the Metra Electric Line, which runs between Millennium Station in downtown Chicago and the South Side and south suburbs, and trains from the South Shore Line, operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD).
The Van Buren Street Station Project will renovate station components that include:
- Tunnel and Stair / Elevator “Pop-up” Enclosure / ADA Improvements
- Depot Rehabilitation
- Platform Improvements
- Van Buren Pedestrian Bridge ADA Improvements
- Signage and Wayfinding
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Project Area Map
The Project’s purpose is to fully renovate the Van Buren Street Station, which will be done in keeping with the station's historic character. Core elements of the renovation will include the restoration of historic elements in the waiting area, the pedestrian tunnels, and station access. Due to water infiltration in both the pedestrian tunnel and the waiting room area, various components of the station facilities are deteriorated and in need of repair. In addition, there is only one existing point of ADA-accessible access to the station. The project will add two additional points of ADA access as well as replace an existing elevator. Interior spaces will be restored consistent with the standards of the Secretary of the Interior (SOI). Signage will be increased and modernized, in part, to improve wayfinding.
To fund the Project, Metra will use a combination of previously budgeted Urbanized Area Formula Funding (Section 5307) and State of Illinois “Rebuild Illinois” Bond funds programmed in Metra’s Capital Program. The Rebuild Illinois Bonds will be granted to Metra through the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).
The following capital funding sources are currently allocated for project implementation:
- 2013-2017 Section 5307 Funds: $10 Million
- 2021 Rebuild Illinois Bond Funds: $38.1 Million
Future year funding may also need to be identified to complete the project.
Under a separate project and funding source, additional station and track improvements are being implemented by NICTD.
Proposed Scope of Work
The following is a description of the four significant scope of work elements for the Project.
1. Tunnel and Stair/Elevator “Pop-up” Enclosure/ADA Improvements
The access tunnel from Michigan Avenue to the station depot has water infiltration from multiple points, including the Michigan Avenue expansion joint. The portion of the pedestrian tunnel under Michigan Avenue will be waterproofed from the top down and the portion between the east side of Michigan Avenue and the station depot entrance will be completely removed and replaced. The entire tunnel will be fully modernized, including a new underdrain system, new lighting, added natural light, enhanced ventilation, and new finishes and integrated vendor spaces at the main, underground depot level. The existing ramps connecting the tunnel to the station and platforms will be rebuilt to have ADA-compliant 5 percent slopes.
The existing entrance stairs and elevator kiosks on the west side of Michigan Avenue will receive waterproofing modifications to their roofs, rehabilitation of the kiosk structures themselves in keeping with their historic feeling and the elevator will be replaced.
A new above-ground landscaped enclosure (“Pop-up”) housing a new stair and new elevator will be constructed east of Michigan Avenue, roughly centered on the Van Buren Street pedestrian bridge at the west end of an existing rectangular patch of lawn. As a result of this improvement, for the first time, there will be accessible access to the station and Grant Park South Garage on the east side of Michigan Avenue south of Jackson Drive.
In conjunction with installation of this new Pop-up, the existing entrance staircase on the east side of Michigan Avenue will be removed. The “Paris Metro” entryway sculpture (a replica, installed in 2003) surrounding this to-be-removed staircase just east of Michigan Avenue will be removed during construction. The Project includes the sculpture's reinstallation at a location determined by its owner, the City of Chicago, in consultation with relevant governmental agencies and community stakeholders.
2. Depot Rehabilitation
The historic depot, including the lobby and waiting rooms, has deteriorated over time. Some of the terra cotta and plaster finishes need to be repaired or replaced. In the lobby area, water infiltration through the roof, perimeter park balustrades, and at the stairs of a Chicago Park District pedestrian bridge, has damaged plaster, tile, terrazzo and terra cotta finishes. Metra will complete a full historic restoration of the depot interior that will include matching the type, color, and texture to existing materials. The renovations will include waterproofing of the rooftop and the addition of a modern green roof, and consolidation of HVAC equipment on the roof screened from view with enclosures. The existing waiting room skylights will be restored to their historic appearance. Additional internal modifications will include lobby air conditioning, removal/replacement of a lobby elevator, restroom renovation, and vendor relocation/addition. The waiting room will be extended into the original footprint to the south (reducing an existing storage area and relocating both a vendor area and the existing security office).
3. Platform Improvements and elevator/stair ADA improvements at Jackson
The concrete passenger platforms and the platform shelters are deteriorated due to age, deicing salts, and cumulative effects of the freeze-thaw cycle. The steel bases of the platform shelters are severely corroded. The platforms, platform shelters and canopy will be removed and replaced. The existing island platform will be extended towards Jackson Drive to improve capacity and ADA access. A new elevator and stairs will be installed at the north end of this platform leading to Jackson Drive. The existing tunnel under the tracks that connects the station to the platform will be waterproofed, the finishes will be upgraded, and the existing elevator will be replaced.
As part of a separate project, NICTD is adding an easternmost passenger platform at the station to provide increased capacity for passenger boarding and alighting, and more efficient train movements. This new easternmost passenger platform will have stairs connecting to Jackson Drive and an elevator and stairs connecting below-grade by tunnel to the other station platforms and the station depot.
4. Van Buren Pedestrian Bridge ADA Improvements and Signage/Wayfinding
In conjunction with the station improvements, it will be necessary to disassemble the westernmost stairs to the existing Chicago Park District pedestrian bridge that extends over the Metra/NICTD track bed to enable required waterproofing of the depot’s roof. At the Park District’s suggestion, the west end of the pedestrian bridge will be modified to include an ADA accessible ramp that is in keeping with the Beaux Arts balustrades and surrounding park aesthetics. This will make the entirety of the pedestrian bridge fully ADA accessible for the first time.
New signage and wayfinding within the Project area will be implemented, helping provide directional information for both the station and the Grant Park South Garage. New signage will also include train schedule information and other operational information.
This Project is currently in the design and planning stage. An environmental review process is being conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The environmental approval and design process will continue in 2022. Construction is expected to begin in 2024-2025, with completion expected in 2027.
A separate environmental review process was initiated for the NICTD project components described above. That review is in its final stages. Construction focused on certain below-grade station platform and track improvements, which are NICTD project components, are expected to begin in 2023.
City of Chicago land use approval activities are also expected to occur and include, among other applications targeted for filing in fall 2022, a review of the core Project components by the Chicago Plan Commission under The Lake Michigan and Chicago Lakefront Protection Ordinance.
Environmental Reporting and Documentation
To evaluate the environmental impacts of the Project, Metra and the FTA are preparing a CE Checklist pursuant to 23 CFR 771.118 (c)(8). As part of its responsibilities under 36 CFR § 800 – Protection of Historic Properties and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Metra and the FTA have initiated a Section 106 Consultation Process for the Project to consider the effects of our undertakings on historic properties. This process involves efforts to identify historic properties potentially affected by the undertaking, assess the effects, and seek ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects. The environmental and historic review process is expected to be completed in early 2023.
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