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Residents React to Plans for New Ravenswood Metra Station

By Laura Pearson | Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Renderings of the new Ravenswood Metra Station. Photo by Laura Pearson.

Last night residents of the 47th Ward gathered at Bethany Retirement Community to review plans for the new Metra station to be located north of Lawrence Avenue on Ravenswood. Work on the federally funded $80-million project will begin this fall and is expected to wrap up by the end of 2014.

It’s part of a $173-million construction project, beginning this August, to replace 100+-year-old bridges along the Union Pacific North line from Fullerton to Balmoral. Ravenswood is currently the busiest stop on the UP-N line, and when complete, the new station will include two ADA-compliant access points?one on the south end at Lawrence and a new pedestrian tunnel on the north end near Ainslie.

Residents at the open house studied renderings by FitzGerald Associates, filled out comment sheets, and asked questions of Metra representatives, project architects, and Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th). Some neighbors expressed concern about the new station being located north of Lawrence. According to Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis, the current location south of Lawrence doesn’t afford enough room for station growth.

Local resident Adam Epstein thinks the current location is a better fit. “They’re putting the station right in a residential area. On the south side [of Lawrence] it’s more industrial,” he said. Four years ago, Epstein and his wife bought property on the 4800 block of North Ravenswood Avenue and moved into their home last Saturday. He said he’s worried about losing the tree line and having a brick fortress in his front yard. “Had we known [the new station] was going to be a large brick structure when we moved in, things might be different,” he said. “We needed to be involved in this conversation much sooner.”

Other residents discussed issues of traffic flow and parking. The proposed Ravenswood Station commercial development, if given the green light from the city of Chicago, will include a four-level parking garage on the west side of the tracks, accessible to Metra commuters. “It’s a transit-oriented development,” Schulter said. But in terms of when the garage will go in, he added, “That’s all based on financing for the shopping center.”

Other concerns from residents include the Metra’s abundant loudspeaker announcements and the fate of nearby trees and community gardens. Addressing the latter concern, Gillis said they’re trying to minimize any removal of trees and gardens.

For some attendees last night, though, the greater issue was how the plans were unveiled?in an open house format, rather than a more formal community meeting.

“We’re wondering why there’s no prudent discussion,” Barbara Cooper told Center Square Journal.

“There’s no way to ask questions so that everyone can hear them,” said Ginny Sykes, a local artist whose husband owns Spacca Napoli. Sykes said that while she knows repairs need to be made, “It’s hard to adapt to change… It can be scary. You want to be as prepared as you can for it.”

Stay tuned to Center Square Journal for construction updates. According to Metra, Ravenswood scheduled stops will be adjusted slightly for the duration of the build. A revised schedule will be announced at a July 16 Metra board meeting and posted on metrarail.com.

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  • http://www.flickr.com/people/vxla Eric Pancer

    Another issue with the proposed station design is that access to the station from the south side of Lawrence Avenue will require commuters to cross Lawrence at Ravenswood. This change in design will pose a safety risk due to increased truck traffic and the already-poor situation at the intersection. Metra is using population and boarding statistics from more than ten years ago, but population and ridership has changed; ridership is at least equal on both sides of Lawrence Avenue.

    Thus, we are calling on Metra to add pedestrian walkways on both the east and west side of the new bridge over Lawrence Avenue which allows for safe passage across the street. Traffic signaling will not prevent a pedestrian/vehicle mishap (which is sure to happen if you consider the amount of commuters who run for the train and the number of drivers who continue rush through the intersection at high speeds).

  • alan

    I have a couple minor issues with the plan and a few more with the public unveiling, but mostly I have to say that people should really think about this as a use for TIF monies. While neighborhood schools suffer, effective teachers lose their jobs, and class sizes increase, maybe the TIF cash could be better spent.

  • Spyro

    One BIG issue here is connectivity with the CTA… the Brown line is currently a few blocks away and they are moving further away? What the hell are the city planners thinking? Why not have a transfer between the Brown and the metra? That would be very useful! If you can’t do it at Lawerense, just make a second stop at Irving PArk road. The Metra and Brown meet their but there is no Metra stop on Irving. Why not? I would take it to work and so would many others.

    • Grant

      ^^^^This^^^^

      It would be much nicer to connect with the Metra via the Brown than via the 81 bus.

    • youidiot

      cause there is a metra stop at lawrence. that’s why….oh and there is nowhere to build it

  • Bob

    there is probably no market for the transfer from the north line to the brown line.

    why isnt the CTA and METRA working together for a bus transfer point for the #145 and lawrence bus and the #148 express??

    is there going to be a kiss and ride??

    reporter: please follow up on the points here so we know!!

  • Steve

    While I haven’t used this Metra station, I am not sure what the deal is with all of these complaints. The first poster here, Eric, complaining that the new station will require commuters to cross Lawrence to get to the train? Well, I run down Ravenswood often, and I see quite a few people having to cross Lawrence to get to the current station, so this commenter obviously lives south of Lawrence and is inconvenienced by the “Don’t Walk” sign. And then “Spyro” is complaining about the station being moved further away from the Brown Line. Really? If you exit near Lawrence, you’ll about a half a block further away from the Damen stop.

    The only people who seem to come out and talk about these things in the neighborhood are the people who are negatively effected. CSJ should try to get input from people that are happy with these plans…Metra commuters that will actually USE this station, Metra commuters that are happy that the station will be closer to their home, Metra commuters that are happy that one day they won’t have to stand in the rain, or the snow, or the cold while waiting for the train to arrive.

    I know CSJ tends to be pretty unbiased, which is great, but please try to get the other side of the story as well.

  • http://blog.fourcher.net Mike Fourcher

    Thank you, Steve, for recognizing our efforts to stay unbiased. We work to keep our editorial unbiased – and you’ll notice our story above includes quotes from the station’s biggest booster, Ald. Schulter, as well a some mild questions from neighbors. I do not see them as anti-station, merely people asking questions.

    Our comments section is largely unregulated. Except for hate speech, libel and profanity, we let everyone say what they want to say. So, if you’re a supporter of the new Lawrence Metra station plan, please speak up here. We’d like to hear from you too!

  • http://laura-pearson.net/ Laura Pearson

    Eric: At the open house a resident asked the Metra spokesperson about the possibility of a pedestrian walkway on the bridge to allow for safe passage across Lawrence, and his response was that bridges over roads already create huge maintenance issues. I’m not sure if that means a walkway is entirely off the table, but I’ll see what I can find out.

    Steve: CSJ will continue to report on the new Metra station and how the community is responding. This report was about the open house in particular, where residents expressed the aforementioned concerns with one another, Ald. Schulter, and Metra reps.

    Thanks for your comments, all.

  • http://www.flickr.com/people/vxla Eric Pancer

    Laura – thanks for your responses. I was probably that resident asking.

    Steve – you are correct, I am a commuter and use the south side of the station. I do not live anywhere near the station (6 blocks away). The point of asking for a pedestrian walkway across Lawrence Avenue is to deal with the increased amount of traffic that is prevalent each year on city streets. We, of course, can accept the status quo and live with a poor design for another 120 years, or we can ask Metra, the Union Pacific, and the City of Chicago to take the time and design safe access for those who use the system from both sides of the street. Now is the time for all stakeholders of the project to get involved and make your voice heard on the matter. If you are happy with the design as a whole, then write your Alderman and Metra and thank them.

    The design looks very attractive and it will be a huge improvement for everyone who rides the train. Let’s just make sure that small investments that can yield safer passage to and from the station are duly considered, as well.

  • Mike

    I agree that a ped bridge over Lawrence should be considered. There is no doubt in my mind that it’s just a matter of time before a pedestrian gets hit and killed by a car crossing Lawrence (if it already hasn’t happened).

  • Mike

    Work is supposed to wrap up by the end of 2014? Why would it take so long?

  • Spyro

    Wow, I guess I am a real ass for thinking it would be nice to have some CTA and Metra interchanges?! Also, my real name is Spyro so I don’t get why the quotes around my name….

    I want the new station… even though it looks like something out of the 80s vs. 2015 (the year it will maybe operate).

    So “Steve”, take a chill pill. As an avid supporter of public transportation I want more options. What if someone is coming from the burbs and wanted to get to Lincoln Square Giddings Plaza for example… would it not be nice if they can take the metra, switch to the brown and get there?

    The city needs more trains, and more connections… Circle line anyone? Or you, like Steve can take the Brown or Red down town to get an the Blue!

    Spyro – For real

  • http://laura-pearson.net/ Laura Pearson

    Mike (@5:56): Acc. to the info. Metra provided at the open house, they’re shutting down the west side of the tracks for construction (working on viaducts and retaining walls and building the west side of the station), while inbound and outbound passengers share the east platform (which will be extended 150 feet south from where it currently ends). So Metra anticipates that work on the east side won’t begin til sometime in 2012.

  • http://laura-pearson.net/ Laura Pearson

    Maybe by 2014 we’ll be commuting to work via teleportation. (ha)

  • Eric Pancer

    The project is slated to be eight years long. Essentially the UP North line will be a single track railroad during that time. Plans could have been made to build the retaining wall and leave reservation for a third express main track (for increased service, routing options, etc.), but according to Metra the plans for this project span as far back as the 1980s and there is negligible ridership growth to warrant express service.

    So by saving $60-$100M on fill for the retaining wall, we are stuck with a two track, bi-directional railroad.

  • Diane

    We live on the 4900 block of Ravenswood and personally I am very mad at Metra. North of Lawrence is ALL residential and now the train stop is moving north 1/2 a block which means that I have to hear the bell as each train arrives north and south. I also have to hear their lovely announcement that a train is running late or its coming. There will also be a “new pedestrian tunnel on the north end near Ainslie”, that’s awesome because now the homeless drunks sitting at the corner of Lawrence & Ravenswood, can practically next door to me!

    In addition to all that joy, my home will lose property value because it will be considered too close to the station and I will have a hard time selling. I didn’t sign up for this and Metra doesn’t care.

    • donna

      i used to live in ravenswood station… directly across from where the station is now…
      the super-close proximity to the station was actually a, are you ready for this??? positive selling point! when i put my unit on the market.
      i doubt you’ll even notice much noise. the stopped train is actually much quieter than one speeding by.
      plus, you live in a city. you kinda did sign up for this.

    • Eric M

      We’re all really sympathetic to your “plight,” what with local government investing millions of dollars building brand new infrastructure right by you that will increase convenience for you and all.

      You won’t have a hard time selling. Reasonable people see brand new investment across the street from a property they’re considering and instantly feel like it’s a good place to live because they know the city cares enough about the area to actually keep up the infrastructure.

      The million or so people in Chicago who aren’t near a rail station would likely be happy to trade homes with you – you should offer to trade with someone in Englewood, I’m sure you could find a nice train-free home there and make some other family quite happy. Win-win.

      I’m sorry your life is so hard.

      • Diane

        Perhaps you should learn a little about a community before you talk of its shortfalls. Englewood has a green line that runs through it.

        • Eric

          Diane, you’ve really provided nothing to this discussion. Your home value will go up, not down, once this project is done. Your comparison of Englewood to Ravenswood is silly: Ravenswood has far superior transit service with the many express buses (145, 148, etc.) downtown providing a one-seat ride, a commuter railroad, and two elevated lines within walking distance.

          So the person who called you a NIMBY was pretty much on-the-mark.

          Diane: could you please detail your changes to the Metra station design that you propose to make you happy? Tell us the exact changes you hope for.

  • Bob

    Diane, you are a NIMBY!

    • Diane

      Incredibly useful for discussion.

  • http://n/a Christopher

    Hey Neighbors!

    Just to be clear, the first block north of Lawrence is not entirely residential… the Newark building occupies much of the afront for the new station… the plans suggest that only one passenger car and the Diesel will stop in front of a few residential homes. It must be understood that Ravenswood is largely an Industrial Corridor first and residential subsequent… I think most residents understood this premise when purchasing directly on the Corridor.

    Having studied Acoustics and Noise Control in College, I have mentioned to a few of the residents, near the new station, the benefits of an Acoustical Wall shielding the Diesel… it can make a world of difference for very little investment; I would try to encourage the developer in including such a solution. That said, noise laws outside of Europe and perhaps California are meager at best. I don’t suppose Chicago with the EL system is anywhere near ready to take responsibility for Noise Pollution (even though it could and probably should be done)… good luck.

    Moving forward… when the station is built and construction is over, I think there might be something we can all agree on. The vacant lot behind this development will remain un-developed through this project. If the economy improves, the developer or Sears may in fact be planning on flipping that property as well. Beware!

    What about a brand new City Park? A Green Space honoring Alderman Shulter’s commitment toward improving his Ward might be just the tribute we need to preserve His legacy as a Community Hero. I would support TIF funds to flip that back-lot into a hidden gem. It’s the least we could ask for as a community at large. Ravenswood is suddenly on the map again!

    On a side note, I believe the Architect and Landscape Archtitect are both residents in this Ward… way to go local! I spoke with them both… absolute gentelemen and have both vastly improved the Corridor already.

    • Diane

      Half of that parking lot is going to be a new parking garage and a commercial space. There was a vote in May to approve this with the residents.

      • http://n/a Christopher

        Gotcha, behind the parking garage will remain un-developed… The Honorary Shulter Park anyone?

        • Diane

          I would be down for a park but I’m pretty sure that its been secretly promised to developers for condos.

  • ravenswood ray

    It seems like it would be most helpful if the design firm actually used public transit, only then would they know how to design for it. The aesthetics and relocation leave much to be desired. A design firm that uses this stop should be the one designing it.

  • Tom Daneth

    How about we not name any parks after Schulter unless he actually starts announcing the community planning meetings in his weekly newsletters, first?

    Remember, community involvement? Commenting on a blog entry is NOT involvement. Start demanding your aldercreature listens to your voice.

    • http://blog.fourcher.net Mike Fourcher

      “Blog” you say? Ouch.

    • New Leadership

      Check out http://www.renewchicago.com. We would like to hear more about how to increase community participation.

      • Tom Daneth

        Spam?

        • Ameya

          Hi Tom -
          There needs to be more community input on all issues. Nobody asked us about the parking meter sale, TIF money or the budget crisis. That is why I’m running for alderman in the 47th Ward. I am developing a Ward Council that operates much like the City Council. This council would give real local control to everyone in the 47th Ward. Check out my website – http://www.renewchicago.com.

  • Toscha

    I live on Hermitage south of Lawrence and take the Metra. The current condition of the station, if it can even be called that, is so poor I would happily walk a block north and cross Lawrence for the amenities of a new station that would be more spacious and provide some protection from the elements. I really don’t understand complaints about crossing the street. There is already a cross walk there. People crossing from the north now use it and seem to survive. I don’t understand the complaints that it won’t connect with the Brown line. The Lawrence bus parallels the Brown line west, and the Damen stop is still within walking distance. As for the noise, I live steps from the current stop and only hear the loudspeakers when I am outdoors. If you don’t want the noise or aesthetics of train tracks, well why move near them? Fact is you are still living in a big city with people and noise and buildings and infinite other things we must tolerate. Frankly I am just happy we even have a Metra stop in the area and can get downtown in 15 minutes without the traffic and CTA!

    • Diane

      I don’t think anyone is arguing against getting a new station. We all see the concrete falling off the platform. The issue is the new location of the station. If the station were to move closer to you then you would have an issue as well.

    • Mike

      You’re correct that there is a crosswalk on the east side of the train tracks. There is no cross walk west of the tracks until Wolcott. So people jaywalk. It’s very dangerous. Especially during the PM rush hour when the sun is setting and blinds the drivers. It will be worse once the grocery store is built. A ped overpass would be a huge benefit.

  • JG

    Anyone planning on going to the rezoning city council meeting on the 20th? I cannot believe Schulter wants to get a Residential zoning changed to a transportaion zoning classification!!

  • Eric Pancer

    Has anyone been alerted of any further upcoming meetings?

  • Diane

    http://metrarail.com/metra/en/home/utility_landing/newsroom/newsroom/major_improvementsontheunionpacificnorthline.html

    Work will begin in August 2010 on a $185M bridge and retaining wall construction project on the Union Pacific North Line. A total of 22 bridges on the north side of Chicago will be replaced, with the construction split into two phases. During the first phase of the project, 11 bridges will be replaced between Grace Avenue and Balmoral Street. In the second phase, 11 more bridges between Fullerton Avenue and Cornelia Street will be replaced.

    The project is expected to be completed at the end of 2018.

    There will be no disruption of service at any of the Union Pacific North Line stations during construction. There will be minor adjustments to the train schedules and travel times will stay the same as the current schedule or increase by a few minutes. The changes in schedule will be effective August 21, 2010.

    For the proposed schedule, please see this document.

    There will be three Union Pacific North Line bridge open house forums at the following times and locations:

    Thursday, July 29th, 5:00 PM – 7:00PM
    Waukegan City Hall
    Board Room
    100 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue
    Waukegan, Illinois

    Monday, August 2nd, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
    Lake Forest City Hall
    220 East Deerpath Road
    Lake Forest, Illinois

    Wednesday, August 4th, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
    Evanston Public Library
    Community Room
    1703 Orrington Avenue
    Evanston, Illinois

    • Eric

      Great, so in other words they’ve made it nearly impossible for anyone who works to get to a meeting. I see Metra is learning quickly from the CTA on how to really schedule meetings according in order to have the least amount of attendance possible.

  • http://flickr.com/people/vxla Eric

    There’s a meeting on August 3rd, 2010, to discuss the station. From Schulter…

    ——

    Please note the following information regarding the Metra Ravenswood station project in the 47th Ward.

    “Dear Neighbors,
    ?
    I would like to invite all 47th Ward residents?to attend an Open House to?view the Metra Infrastructure Project which will include all bridges along Ravenswood, from Balmoral to Grace. This will be part of the $80 million stimulus and federally funded project.
    The meeting will be held next Tuesday, August 3rd at 7pm at the Auditorium of the Bethany Retirement Community located at 4950 N Ashland Ave. As always, I highly encourage and welcome?all ward residents to come to this Open House.
    ?
    I look forward to seeing you on August 3rd!

    Sincerely,
    Gene Schulter
    Alderman, 47th Ward”

    • We want leadership

      Dear Alderman Schulter -

      Now, it’s time to take a stand on the budget crisis, TIF reform
      and school funding. It’s time to explain why you voted to sell off parking meters. It’s time to address service delivery in a time where service cuts may become inevitable. It’s not enough to say, “I know my way way around City Hall and can get things done.” That old way of doing things no longer works. Why? The clout heavy system of using service delivery as a political tool only works when there is enough money to throw around. Now that years of mismanagement and piece-meal service delivery has driven the City Council to pawn assets, we want to know how you plan on delivering services? How do you plan on ensuring that homes in the 47th ward retain their value or school class sizes aren’t increased when the budget deficits soar towards $1 billion plus in the coming years? We haven’t heard anything from you regarding these issues. Instead, what we heard was you complaining about the size of corporate logos on the bridge houses if they are privatized. It’s time to act like we have a strong council/weak mayor form of government.

      The time to act is now. The elections are just a 7 months away.

      • i

        Trolling on the Internet to get your political message across? How about dropping the mouse and doing something in real life?

        Let’s stick to the train station here, mmkay?

  • http://laura-pearson.net/ Laura Pearson

    Thanks, Eric.

  • Me
  • Eric

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/ct-x-c-ravenswood-metra-20100730,0,5638492.story

    Residents on Ravenswood Avenue were so upset by the idea of a Metra station closer to their homes that they complained to officials, circulated a petition, formed an association and hired an attorney.

    Their efforts seem to have worked.

    Metra officials and the area’s alderman have backed away from a plan to move the Metra’s busy Ravenswood station north of Lawrence Avenue from its current location south of the street.

    On Wednesday, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said Metra, in consultation with Ald. Gene Schulter, 47th, had decided to build the new station on the same site as it sits now.

    [...]

  • nimby

    Glad to see the right thing was done.

  • Eric

    Now residents north of Lawrence, you’ve gotten what you want, so work with us to insist that the corner be made into a safer pedestrian area. Pressure Metra and your alderman to install a track-level walkway so the street crossing can be done above Lawrence. It doesn’t cost much extra, and it means safer access to the station for everyone involved.

  • x

    It took a lot of organization and teamwork to get this accomplished. It didn’t just fall into the area’s lap.

    They fought for what they wanted and succeeded, even though other people may have disagreed with them (as is evident in the above discussions).

    I think the area’s residents would be glad to help you, but somebody’s got to take the initiative and do the hard work.

  • Pingback: Metra Scraps Plan to Move Ravenswood Metra Station | The Center Square Journal

  • Joe B

    I live on 3800 block of Ravenswood, while I can’t get much into the discussion about the new station on Lawrence. Can anyone comment on what exactly the Metra plans are for all the bridges and tracks in general? I’ve got a lot of sweat-equity in our gardens across the street, would hate to see that all get torn up… would love to know what anyone else has heard. Thanks!

    • Eric

      Metra is re-aligning tracks to provide for 17 foot center-to-center clearances (instead of 18-feet like the Union Pacific had desired). This will pose no problem to anything on the sides of the embankment.

      Had this been the best scenario possible, Metra would have restored or reserved a third main track by adding retaining walls (for a cost of approximately $60M) in order to add express service in the future. At this point, that possibility will be completely destroyed once the project gets underway.

      Yes, your gardens are wonderful, but reserving one of two main rights-of-way for transit on the north side of the city really would have been…..prudent.

  • Pingback: Metra Open House Draws a Crowd | The Center Square Journal

  • http://n/a Christopher
  • http://woodworking-books.org Woodworking Project Plans

    There was a vote in May to approve this with the residents.

  • Pingback: Metra Releases Revised UP-N Schedule, Reviews Plans for Ravenswood Station | The Center Square Journal

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