- Chicago officials have selected international engineering firm Arup for a $6 million contract to develop the preliminary designs for what officials referred to as a much-needed facelift of the city's 91-year-old historic Union Station, the Chicago Tribune reported.
- The entire project will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will seek federal funding, rejecting for now the possibility of establishing a special taxing district to foot the bill, even though state tax increment financing legislation affords him the possibility.
- The station has already seen recent improvements to accommodate the daily ridership of 125,000, including a two-story Amtrak lounge for first-class customers, a new rapid-transit bus terminal and a step renovation to alleviate concourse overcrowding.
Arup will provide a proposal to the city in approximately 18 months, giving officials an idea of total project costs. After that, it is estimated that any significant work will not get underway for five or more years. Some of the specific items Arup will deal with involve station's crowded passenger concourse, narrow platforms and malodorous air.
At a press conference, Emanuel told reporters, "You cannot have a 21st-century economy running on 20th-century infrastructure." Chicago's Union Station, in addition to being a major Amtrak and bus hub, also serves approximately 110,000 local Metra customers each day.
Chicago is not the only city looking to revamp its rail facilities. Washington is also revamping its Union Station, with plans for a new $50 million Amtrak concourse underway. Amtrak is footing most of the bill for the new concourse, which will be open by 2019 or 2020. And New York's planned $3 billion Penn Station overhaul has already drawn the interest of the city's biggest names in real estate, construction and finance.
In Philadelphia, Amtrak conducted a two-year, $5.25 million study of its University City station and proposed a $6.5 billion, 35-year plan to redevelop 175 acres of adjacent land. Only $2 billion of public infrastructure investment could unlock $4.5 billion of private investment for a "dense urban neighborhood," which would include housing to accommodate 10,000 new residents and 1.2 million square feet of commercial space, all built over 88 acres of existing rail yards.