Local historic Metra stations in line for renovation project


by Patrick Thomas

Thanks to long-awaited state funds, some long-awaited restoration projects for local Rock Island Metra stations are finally in line to begin.

The problem is that commuters who board Metra trains at the 91st Street and 115th Street stations may have to wait at least two more years for the work that will cost $8 million for each station.

The Beverly/Morgan Park restorations are part of a $136-million plan to rehab 24 Metra stations and build three new stations that came as a result of this year’s state capital bill, according to Metra Spokeswoman Meg Reile.

“We have these facilities, and we have to keep funding their maintenance and overhaul them because they are used every day. From all that use and wear and tear, we need capital funding to keep them up, and we need to replace platforms,” Reile said. “We’re going through them one by one.”

Among the new stations will be an $11.5-million elevated station in the Auburn Park neighborhood north of the Gresham stop on the Rock Island line. The Auburn Park station is scheduled to undergo engineering work next year and construction by 2011. Metra officials believe it will attract new passengers to the line and relieve parking pressure at other stations along the route.

While the hope is that engineering is completed by 2010 on the 91st and 115th street landmark stations, construction is not slated to be finished until 2012.

The scheduled work is dependant upon when the money arrives, Reile said.

“It’s depending on the timetable of how the money may move. It could be faster, or if engineering studies show or dictate that something needs to be done sooner, it will be addressed right away,” Reile said.

The 115th Street station has been in need of work for several years. Holes can be seen in the building’s soffit.

During the station restoration, crews will have to raise the buildings off the ground to renovate the foundations.

“It might be more cost effective to replace the stations, but because these particular structures are historically significant, they will not be replaced but rather restored,” Reile said.

Similar work was completed in the summer of 2008 on the 99th Street Metra station. The Commission on Chicago Landmarks, a division of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, designated the stations at 91st, 95th, 99th, 107th, 111th and 115th streets as historic landmarks in 1995. Built between 1889 and 1945, the stations and the Rock Island line have served as a backbone for the Beverly and Morgan Park communities by connecting residents to downtown.

The structures were designed for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad and reflect the Colonial Revival, Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque architectural styles of surrounding residences, according to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.

Metra officials said in 2000 that they planned to renovate all of the stations by 2008. Thus far, 95th, 99th, 103rd and 111th have been rehabbed.

A few miles south on the Rock Island line, the Vermont Street station in Blue Island is also one of the 24 stations destined for renovation work, Reile said. The Blue Island stop will undergo $4 million in reconstruction on the platform and station, with engineering slated for 2011 and construction in 2012.

Reile said the Metra work on the Rock Island is considered tentative, but she emphasized that all of it is on Metra’s radar screen.

“These are definitely the next station projects in our queues. They are just all dependent on funding. If there is a delay, there’s a delay, but they are definitely slated to be fixed,” Reile said.

Fare increase

In other news from Metra, officials announced that starting Feb. 1, 2010, weekend ticket prices, one-way fares and the cost of tickets bought on a train are expected to rise.

The price changes, which were approved by the Metra Board of Directors, await a vote before the Board of the Regional Transportation Authority on Dec. 17. The changes in cost will not affect 10- ride or monthly passes.

The unlimited weekend ticket prices, which have not been changed since 1991, will increase from $5 to $7. Oneway fares will increase about 6 percent, about 30 cents a ticket on average, depending on the length of the trip. Riders who don’t buy tickets at the station will have to pay $3 instead of $2 when buying on board.

Also in 2010, Metra plans to accept credit cards at all stations where an agent is on duty.

For complete zone fare information, people can visit the Web site at metrarail.com.