News & Reviews News Wire Chicago Union Station to receive more than $93 million for upgrades

Chicago Union Station to receive more than $93 million for upgrades

By David Lassen | December 6, 2023

Platform, ventilation improvements on tap; other aspects of $1.1 billion Hub plan not addressed

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Large waiting room area with Christmas tree
Bench space is in great demand in Chicago Union Station’s Great Hall on Nov. 22, 2023. The station will receive a $93.6 million grant for upgrades, according to three federal legislators. Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — Chicago Union Station will receive a $93.6 million grant for modernization, part of the Chicago Hub Improvement Program outlined earlier this year by federal, state,  local, and Amtrak officials.

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (all D-Ill.), announced the funding today (Wednesday, Dec. 6). Money will come from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grant program.

The money will fund renovation and expansion of station platforms, bringing platforms into compliance with the Americans with Disability Act, improving ventilation systems, and adding an entrance/exit to improve passenger capacity. It will also allow the station’s mail platform, out of use since 2005, to be repurposed for passenger use.

“This significant federal investment is a strategic move to ensure our city remains not just a crossroads, but a thriving nexus that efficiently connects people, goods, and ideas,” Durbin said in a press release. “It’s an acknowledgement that Union Station must adapt and innovate to cater to the evolving needs of our residents and the broader American landscape.”

While notable, the funding announced today — barring further awards still to be announced — falls far short of the $872.8 million in Federal-State Partnership funds officials said they were seeking at an August press conference [see “Chicago Hub project vies for big chunk of federal grant money,” Trains News Wire, Aug. 3, 2023]. That would enable more than $1.1 billion in projects that would also draw money from Amtrak, the states of Illinois and Michigan; the City of Chicago; the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning; and Cook County, Ill. The full Hub project, as described here, would also include a direct connection between Union Station and the St. Charles Air Line and extension of a passing track to address a bottleneck near Dowagiac, Mich.

“Improvements to Chicago’s Union Station are critically important for improving rail service and reliability for folks in Chicago and throughout Illinois, but also for preventing delays and increasing safety for the more than 30 million riders across all the rail services that pass through Union Station each year,” Duckworth said. “This announcement is a great start in working toward these improvements, but I’ll keep working to ensure we bring more funding into the Chicago Hub Improvement Program because this critical project isn’t just beneficial for Chicago and Illinois, it’s also a win for the Midwest and a win for our entire country.”

An Amtrak spokesman deferred comment until after an official release by the U.S. Department of Transportation and/or FRA. Officials involved in other projects receiving Federal-State Partnership money have indicated that release is expected on Friday.

Passenger train with Chicago skyline in background
Amtrak’s California Zephyr departs Chicago Union Station on Dec.2, 2023. A federal grant will fund upgrades to the station but does not address track realignments south of the station. David Lassen

7 thoughts on “Chicago Union Station to receive more than $93 million for upgrades

  1. No funds for any plans to increase clearance from top of rail to ceiling for eventual CAT for electrification.

  2. Finally. That St Charles Airline connection has been talked about for at least 20 years. It’ll reduce time for trains from the IC by 10-15 minutes at least.

  3. I hope they spend some money on moving CUS signal control out of that backroom upstairs and into a real operations center. If you remember CUS signaling went dark when during a computer upgrade (during business hours no less) the technician tripped on the wires and ripped out the interfaces to the copper pairs supporting the analog signal system. Trains went on hold while they scrambled to get the wires back in the wall.

  4. I wonder how much of the $93 million will actually be used for all the up grades mentioned. After all it is Chicago. I’m sure everything will come in under budget also.

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