Monday, October 04, 2010

Chicago Union Station renovation set

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Monday announced Amtrak’s Union Station in Chicago will undergo $40 million in renovations, funded from Amtrak’s capital budget. Improvements will include air-conditioning for public areas, set to be in place by next summer, and more restrooms at track level. Seating in Amtrak’s boarding lounges at the station will be expanded to 950 seats, almost doubling the existing capacity.

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Amtrak ridership at the station has grown more than 40% in the past 12 years, according to Amtrak. Metra also uses Union Station for many of its trains.

“This project is going to be part of the revival of passenger rail,” said Tom Carper, chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors. 

Once the current round of renovation is completed in late 2012, redevelopment of Union Station’s headhouse building will be set in motion, with an eye toward adding retail businesses, similar to development at other major Amtrak stations such as 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.

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“This is a very important investment to make sure [Chicago] Union Station is 21st century-ready,” Gov. Quinn said during a news conference at the station.

The Midwest High Speed Rail Association hailed the announcement. “MHSRA has been advocating for a similar set of improvements for several years,” association Executive Director Rick Harnish told Railway Age. “We applaud Amtrak for taking these steps to improve this critical component of the nation’s transportation network.”