What are the benefits for commuters?
The overall renovation and rehabilitation of Van Buren Station facility will benefit users of Metra and NICTD trains and non-train users, residents and visitors who use Grant Park and/or attend events in the area. Generally, the Project will improve the station, and the area surrounding, in key areas related to safety, accessibility, operations and aesthetics.
- Improved conditions and amenities – The Project includes replacing uneven deteriorated platforms and other walking surfaces. New waterproofing will mitigate water infiltration and greatly reduce encounters with wet walking surfaces. Lighting upgrades will provide an environment that is better illuminated. The platforms will be upgraded to have the most current integral tactile/visual warning edge design, and greater clearances between platform structures and platform edge. These improvements will reduce the chance for accidental user misstep and injury. Structures and elevators will be designed to have maximum transparency for security. Improvements planned for the station depot's roof in Grant Park will include ‘screened’ mechanical units and a green roof with plantings selected both for aesthetic benefit and to deter nuisance trespassing and vagrancy. Pedestrians using the proposed new station access point east of Michigan Avenue, particularly those with accessibility challenges (for example, those with luggage or using strollers), will be offered an improved, weather-protected option for crossing Michigan Avenue away from vehicle traffic. People with physical disabilities will have improved circulation options west of Michigan Avenue and at the existing Van Buren pedestrian bridge in Grant Park.
- Accessibility – The rehabilitated station will have increased Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility. Currently there is only one ADA access point which is an elevator located on the west side of Michigan Avenue at the intersection of Van Buren Street and Michigan Avenue. Two more ADA access points to the station will be added. A new elevator and stairway are proposed for the east side of Michigan Avenue in a small portion of the western edge of the Park (the "Michigan Avenue Entry Pop-up" or "Entry Pop-up")). This will allow station patrons on the east side of Michigan Avenue, such as those coming to and from the Art Institute, Buckingham Fountain, and civic events within Grant Park, to access the station without having to cross to the west side of Michigan Avenue in order to use an elevator to access the below-grade location of the station platforms. This new Michigan Avenue Entry Pop-up with an elevator in Grant Park will also provide, for the first time, an accessible route directly from that portion of Grant Park south of Jackson Drive to the existing Grant Park South Parking Garage entrance in the pedestrian tunnel under Michigan Avenue. Another ADA access point will be added, through an elevator enclosure and exterior stair, at the north end of the existing "island" (center) passenger platform leading directly to Jackson Drive just south of the Art Institute.Trains can be accessed on either side of the island and new easternmost platforms, and from the existing renovated west platform. All of the track-level platforms will have canopies and be connected to the historic station depot through elevators and tunnels. The existing pedestrian tunnel ramps will be re-built to have less than the maximum 5% ADA compliant slopes. The existing Park District Van Buren Street pedestrian bridge will be made ADA compliant with the addition of an ADA ramp at the west end stair. The architecture of the ramp will coordinate with the Beaux-Arts style of the stair. All restrooms and signage will be upgraded to be ADA compliant.
- Operations – A new platform and canopy will be added east of the existing platforms to provide increased capacity for passenger boarding and alighting, and more efficient movement, for NICTD and Metra trains, which will result in improved services connecting Chicago with other parts of the city, suburbs, and communities in Indiana. This new eastern platform will have a stair connection to Jackson Drive and a connecting tunnel link, with stair and elevator, to the existing tunnel which links all of the platforms to the station depot. This Project will result in the renovation and replacement of existing station components overall, including, but not limited to, replacement and extension of the existing island platform, replacement and modification of the existing western side platform, rehabilitation of all existing elevators, the addition of three new elevators, roof membrane and flashing replacement, waterproofing of the facility’s below-grade spaces, rehabilitation of the station’s waiting areas, rehabilitation of the rest rooms, upgraded HVAC with cooling for the waiting room, upgraded electronic public information displays, and other passenger amenities.
- Aesthetics – All existing components of the station will be renovated in keeping with the station’s historic character, following the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. This includes the interior waiting rooms, the exterior limestone facade at platform level, and the stair and elevator enclosures west of Michigan Avenue. The new platform canopy roof design references the historic original ‘bell shaped’ canopy roofs. The new proposed Michigan Avenue Entry Pop-up east of Michigan Avenue in the Park is derived from the shape of original historic stair enclosures, yet consistent with modern principles of placing new structures in historic areas, is not designed to precisely replicate the original early 20th century architectural style. The Entry Pop-up will have a semi-circular, glass and metal canopy with discreet station identification signage facing Michigan Avenue. In fact, the Entry Pop-up is consistent with, but less intrusive than, the original station design from the early portion of the 20th century, which featured within the Park east of Michigan Avenue two separate kiosk-style staircase entrances to the lower-level tunnel (which in turn connects to the below-grade station depot). Consistent with input from the Chicago Park District, the Entry Pop-up will be situated within a new landscaped bed surrounding it on the east, north and south sides. The architecture of the added ADA ramp at the Park District’s Van Buren pedestrian bridge will coordinate with the historic style of the existing stair and balustrade. This Project will provide improved aesthetics by integrating all required systems – such as lighting, speakers, and signage – into the new design.
How will construction staging for this project be undertaken? What areas of Grant Park would be affected?
Construction phasing and staging is not yet fully determined. Metra will coordinate with the City of Chicago and Park District to confirm allowable access and staging areas. Replacing the existing pedestrian tunnel will be the most impactful portion of the Project. Construction limits within Grant Park will extend to a minimum of 10-ft beyond the limits of the underground tunnel structure, Entry Pop-up, and ADA ramp at the pedestrian bridge.
How and in what way and when is traffic on Michigan Avenue affected by the project's construction?
Based on preliminary discussions with CDOT regarding the maintenance of traffic on Michigan Avenue, partial lane closures will be temporarily needed, although a minimum of two through lanes are expected to remain open. There may be a need for additional short term off-peak nighttime / weekend lane closures.
How and in what way and when is traffic on Jackson within Grant Park affected by the project's construction?
Traffic on Jackson Drive is not expected to be significantly impacted; there may be need for occasional short term lane closures adjacent to the construction area.
What specific City of Chicago zoning approvals will Metra seek for this project?
For the core station components of the project, Metra will request a rezoning of that portion of the railroad right-of-way south of Van Buren to Balbo to the "T" district, a minor change to Planned Development 677 which applies north of Van Buren and south of Jackson and a special use approval for the southern half of the Entry Pop-up. Metra will also seek review of the core station components from the Chicago Plan Commission under the Lakefront Protection Ordinance.
Why is a rezoning needed to the T district?
The portion of the railroad right-of-way lying south of Van Buren is zoned DX-16 and only allows passenger stations as a special use. The T district allows commuter rail stations as a permitted use and is the appropriate zoning district for commuter rail activities. The T district was created by the City in 2004 for transportation uses and used throughout the City for this purpose. This zoning district has very limited allowable uses, so it allows Metra to carry out its station project while eliminating the wide range of non-transportation uses allowed now in the current DX-16 zoning district.
Has Metra considered incorporating the Hector Guimard stair enclosure into the project? Shouldn't it, given that Metra was one of the original proponents of the public art? Which entity has agreed to accept the Guimard sculpture and what will happen to it?
Metra acknowledges the Hector Guimard (Paris Metro) style stair sculpture as important public art connected to the bigger story of metropolitan passenger rail transit. The sculpture is, at the same time, a reproduction and not designated as a contributing feature within the NRHP-listed Grant Park. It is also not an original element of the Van Buren St. Station and is not a historic structure, sculpture, or element.
The Guimard sculpture was installed in 2003 and at that time, replaced a modern (steel and granite) structure covering the same staircase. The staircase which the Guimard sculpture now surrounds must be removed. This is because the existing pedestrian tunnel and ramp system beneath Grant Park, between Michigan Avenue and the station ticket office lobby, needs to be rebuilt to address water infiltration and ADA compliance concerns and the replacement of the existing staircase by the weather-protected Entry Pop-up is central to addressing these concerns. Simply put, the existing staircase location conflicts with the plan to make the tunnel ramps ADA compliant, including providing elevator services on the east side of Michigan to the tunnel level (which will also allow accessible access to the Grant Park South Garage east of Michigan and south of Jackson).
Metra will remove the sculpture at the start of construction to protect it. Importantly, Metra is committed to funding a reinstallation of the sculpture at a location selected by the City (the sculpture's owner) in consultation with the Park District and other stakeholders, even if the ultimate future location selected by the City is the current location. Metra's view of the sculpture's current location, post completion of its Project, is that the sculpture is overly close to the street and therefore subject to continued accelerated degradation due to salt and other right-of-way environmental elements. The selection of location for the sculpture is ultimately not a decision for Metra.
What will happen to the area of the Hector Guimard Paris stair enclosure once it is removed? Will the area be filled in and turned back into green space?
The area will be filled in. The filled in area will be returned to the Park as pavement for pedestrian circulation.
How did Metra arrive at the proposed architectural design for its Grant Park pop-up?
The current selected concept design for the Entry Pop-up is derived from a combination of traditional and modern styles. The ‘curved’ form and semi-circular front canopy are derived from historic stair enclosures. More specifically, in the 1930’s, there were two similarly shaped ‘pop-ups’ located approximately where the proposed new single ‘pop-up’ will be located. The new design is similar in scale and design, although updated with modern materials and details. The mostly glass structure will allow natural daylight to filter into spaces below and provide maximum transparency for security.
Are any trees or other Grant Park plantings being removed in connection with this project?
Currently there are no plans to remove trees or plantings. An area of existing grass only will be eliminated to host the footprint of the new Entry Pop-up, which will provide ADA compliant access to the Van Buren Station, the Grant Park South parking garage, and the Michigan Avenue pedestrian underpass. At the new Entry Pop-up, landscaping will be added along three sides. An additional small area of grass may be converted to sidewalk to the north of one of the proposed signs to allow proper viewing the sign information.
What is Metra's position with respect to an effort to request federal approval for inclusion of the Van Buren Station on the National Register?
Generally, Metra supports preservation of historic stations and, due to the public funding for its projects, Metra is required to and does follow the Secretary of Interior Standards for Rehabilitation for work on historic stations. Metra is not likely to propose the listing of the Van Buren station on the National Register, but would not likely stand in the way if others chose to pursue such a listing.
What is the quantity and type of signage within Grant Park? What signage will be visible after dark?
The Entry Pop-up and new Jackson Drive elevator enclosure are proposed to receive a logo for both Metra and NICTD South Shore trains, and the station name, to identify the structure as an entrance to the train station below. These logos will be backlit for evening recognition. Metra is proposing to install digital display monitors within each of the freestanding sign board/kiosks. These video monitors will transmit real-time train arrival/departure information to station users, similar to those found around the city at CTA bus and rail stops. The locations of those signs are expected to be at each of the station entrances (on the Jackson Drive bridge, at the station entrances at Van Buren intersection west of Michigan, and near the Entry Pop-up east of Michigan Ave).
Has Metra/NICTD consulted with the City, Park District and Millennium Garages about development of a joint wayfinding project? If not, shouldn't it?
Metra has had preliminary, concept-level wayfinding discussions with the City's Department of Planning and Development, the Park District, CDOT, and NICTD. Metra is open to participating in a broader discussion of wayfinding led by the City or Park District, particularly because Van Buren Station connects to both the Park District’s Grant Park and the City's Grant Park South Garage. From a timing perspective, it is important to note that all station wayfinding will need to be in place when the project is completed to ensure travelers are aware of the new ADA access points. The Van Buren Station project will provide extensive ADA improvements, such as a new elevator and stair pop-up in the park (east of Michigan Avenue) and a new elevator at the Jackson Drive bridge. The station will also continue to connect to the Grant Park South Garage in the station's pedestrian tunnel under Michigan Avenue. These new features will make the station, garage, and platforms fully accessible from the park, eliminating the need to cross Michigan Avenue at street level. All new wayfinding signage will emphasize these new accessible routes.