Local elected officials gathered yesterday morning near the site for a long-delayed new Union Pacific North Line Ravenswood Metra station at Lawrence and Ravenswood Avenues, an $18.3 million project that promises to provide shelter from the elements for waiting riders, make the station accessible to the disabled and eliminate a long-time public transit eyesore.
“This is great for the community, its a big deal,” said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) after the groundbreaking. “We’re talking about $200 million of investment from the federal government Reinvestment Act, the [Lawrence Ave.] streetscape and then $60 investment on the development at the Sears lot.”
But breaking tradition from politicians’ usual effusive praise for new spending projects, State Rep. Greg Harris (D-13) connected the day’s events with Springfield’s budget problems.
“I’m very excited about this. But more importantly, I’m excited that we find a stable funding stream for operations and capital in our state budget in coming years. The deals we’ve made with the downstaters to be able to use road fund money [for public transit] has got to be sustainable,” posited Harris. “Here in [the Chicago area] public transit is as important as roads.”
The new Metra station is part of a wave of major infrastructure spending and development on the Ravenswood corridor, including a $215 million bridge replacement project over 22 streets for the Union Pacific North Line, a $48 million new 90,000 square-foot shopping center on the old Sears Auto lot that recently got underway and the $26 million Ravenswood Terrace residential development, also on the Sears Auto lot, just north of the shopping center.
A temporary inbound station platform was constructed north of Lawrence Ave. in Spring 2011. A temporary outbound platform is under construction north of Lawrence Ave. and will be complete at the end of this month, says Metra. The new outbound station is scheduled to be completed in fall 2013, while the new inbound station will not likely be completed until 2015, according to Metra plans.
Planning and public discussion of the Metra Ravenswood Station begin two years ago, as its planned location wavered back and forth from north of Lawrence Ave. to the original, south side of the street.
At one point Metra announced that it was bowing to public pressure to keep the station on the south side of Lawrence, its current location, but that plan was later scrapped. After public meetings in 2010, Metra decided to locate the stop south of Lawrence.
The station and UP North Line bridge construction then underwent a series of stops and starts last year, as riders rebelled against a temporary single-track schedule that brought considerable delays and fewer trains during rush hours.
Note: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that the Ravenswood Station would be located north of Lawrence.