Chicago — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city is soliciting bid proposals for the construction contracts on three major transit infrastructure projects in the Loop – the Washington-Wabash CTA station, the Central Loop Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project and the Union Station Transit Center.
Combined, the projects represent a major redevelopment and modernization of transportation in downtown Chicago – from Union Station to Millennium Park – the benefits of which will be felt in neighborhoods throughout the city.
"This is a significant investment that will modernize transportation downtown, from Union Station to Millennium Park,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This project isn’t just about downtown, we’re extending the reach of transit to Chicago neighborhoods to the entire region. The tens of thousands of residents who commute downtown for work each day by bus, train, bike or car will soon have a more modern, more reliable way to get where they need to go.”
The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) will manage the construction of all three projects, which combined total $150 million in infrastructure modernization investments. The city intends to award the construction contracts by the end of the year, so that construction can begin in the first quarter of 2015.
The Central Loop BRT plans include designated bus-priority lanes on two miles of streets: Madison, Washington, Canal and Clinton. The transit corridor serves Union Station, Ogilvie Transportation Center, CTA subways and Navy Pier with more than 1,000 buses per day. Through careful planning and design, the lanes will provide a balanced separation of bus, bike and regular traffic lanes. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2015.
BRT improvements designed to make bus travel more reliable and appealing to customers include: colored pavement markings and enhanced signage clearly delineating the bus lanes; level-boarding; queue jumps for buses at key intersections; distinct bus shelters; bus tracker digital displays; sidewalk improvements and protected bike lanes.
Under the plan, eastbound Washington will feature a colored bus-only lane that will be serviced with island bus-boarding platforms. Two general traffic lanes will remain for traffic through the Loop. A bike lane against the southern curb on Washington would be protected from auto traffic by the bus lane and boarding platforms.
Madison Street would have similar lane configurations and bus-boarding platforms. The westbound protected bike lane would be relocated to Randolph Street.
“These transit improvements will provide faster and more reliable transportation service to connect people to jobs and major destinations across the Loop,” said CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld. “There has been a need for these critical investments for many years, to reduce congestion, improve service and provide more transportation options for Chicagoans.”
The Union Station Transit Center, a new off-street bus boarding center just south of Union Station, will provide key connections with other modes of transport to the BRT system. The transit center will be located south of Jackson between Canal and Clinton, and will provide sheltered staging areas for CTA buses and a vertical connection to an existing Amtrak underground passageway, allowing commuters to access Union Station without crossing at street level. The transit center is scheduled to be open for service at the end of 2015.
The Washington-Wabash CTA station will replace two century-old stations at Madison and Randolph with one modern, fully accessible station with wider platforms and a beautiful architectural design. The new station will have updated platforms, a new mezzanine and feature several modern amenities including elevators, an escalator, real time train arrival information, and security monitoring equipment.
Materials for the undulating wave form of the station canopy have been chosen to allow visibility, reinforce the feeling of openness and to allow a visual connection to the historic Wabash corridor. The vibrant new facility will enhance passenger convenience, improve train speeds, decrease operating costs and provide accessibility for all riders. The new station will be open for service in 2016.
“These improvements are the latest efforts by Mayor Emanuel and the CTA to create a 21st century transit experience,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “Over the last three years we’ve made unprecedented investments across the city to modernize bus and rail service to provide faster, more efficient service and improve the experience of our riders.”
All three construction contracts are now open for bid. Responses for the Unions Station Transit Center are due October 21, the Central Loop BRT on October 28 and Washington Wabash Station on November 4.
These transit improvement projects have long been supported by a number of business and civic organizations and downtown stakeholders, including the Metropolitan Planning Council, the Active Transportation Alliance and the Chicago Loop Alliance.
“The Loop is the center of this city and the heart of our economy, and we need dependable transportation downtown to ensure our city continues to grow and thrive,” said Michael Edwards, President and CEO of the Chicago Loop Alliance. “These critical transportation improvements will move people easily to and through the central business district – from the transportation hubs on the west side of the Loop, to the shopping and businesses on State Street and Michigan Avenue.”