December 06, 2023

Chicago’s Union Station to get $93 million for upgrades

The federal grant allotted is less than the $873 million the railroad sought and won’t address Amtrak’s wish list of track improvements outside the station.

Source: Chicago Sun Times


Chicago Union Station will get $93 million in federal funding for upgrades, but the grant total is far less than what officials had sought and doesn’t address Amtrak’s wish list of track improvements outside the station.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, who had pushed for the Chicago Hub Improvement Project funding, announced the grant Wednesday.

The funding will expand platforms and make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as upgrade ventilation systems, Durbin and Duckworth said in a news release.

The station’s post office platforms, unused since 2005, will be repurposed for intercity travel for the station’s 120,000 weekly passengers.

Amtrak, which owns the station, said it won’t comment until the grant is officially announced Friday by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The $93 million grant is far less than the $873 million that Amtrak applied for. Combined with local funding sources, Amtrak’s plan costs $1.1 billion, and includes other projects like rerouting tracks south of the station.

The new grant doesn’t fund other Amtrak dream projects outside the station.

Amtrak wants to improve the St. Charles Air Line, an east-west rail link at 16th Street, to let trains turn directly north into Union Station. Currently, trains using the line must head south then back into Union Station, a time-consuming maneuver.

Another proposed track improvement would let Amtrak trains from St. Louis and Texas travel into Chicago on the Metra Rock Island Line, speeding Metra commutes on the route.

Reactivating the post office platforms is important to improving station capacity, said Joseph Schwieterman, a DePaul University professor who studies public policy and transportation.

The grant “sets into motion what likely will evolve into a complete station overhaul,” he said. “But it’s only the beginning. This won’t be a quick fix, but this gets the ball rolling in an exciting way.”

Nearly 30 lawmakers led by Durbin and Duckworth wrote a letter in September pressing President Joe Biden to sign off on the funding.

By:  David Struett