Public meeting set Tuesday on environmental impact of new CTA Wilson station

The environmental assessment of the new Wilson Transfer Station Project will be available for review at a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Uplift Community High School, 900 W. Wilson.

The release and public comment period of the environmental assessment for the project – with construction set to being sometime this year – is another step in the construction process. View the document, and email comments by Feb. 26.

The CTA says the project would replace the existing facility to include these improvements:

  • Longer and wider platforms to serve current and future ridership demand and to allow easy and convenient transfers between the Red and Purple Lines.
  • Three new station entrances/exits to capture more riders.
  • Modern station amenities including wider stairwells, new escalators and elevators, new energy-efficient lighting, over 100 security cameras, new signage, additional bike parking, and modern steel framed translucent, polycarbonate canopies.
  • Features that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) design standards – two of the three new station entrances/exits would be ADA accessible with elevator access, Braille signage, wheelchair-accessible fare gates and ramps.
  • Street level enhancements including removal of some “L” columns from Broadway to improve the vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle environment; construction of a new station house; and restoration of the terra cotta exterior of the 1923 Gerber Building.
  • Track structure redesign and reconstruction to improve efficiency and safety of transit operations and maintenance.

(All photos courtesy of CTA.)


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  • There shouldn't be any contention about this, unless there still is over preserving the Gerber building. Anything would be an improvement over what is there now.

  • Wilson Station definitely needs to be replaced but this $203M project is larded with wasteful bells and whistles that CTA can ill afford. Wilson ranks #27 in the latest January weekday train ridership figures but it will be the second most expensive station in CTA history.

    The terra cotta restoration of Wilson Station is a grotesque waste of scant transportation funds. According to the CTA's own 1986 review, the Wilson/Gerber station "...has lost its ability to convey any potential individual significance and it is not individually eligible for listing in the NRHP." That's quoted straight from the Environmental Assessment. CTA is planning to restore the Gerber building as a contributing part of the Uptown Square Historic District. The Majestic Men's Wear Building enjoys the "contributing factor" status but is simply going to be destroyed with the facade put back in place on a new building. This is the course that CTA should take with Wilson Station, sparing the agency both A) the increased material and labor cost of restoring a terra cotta building that is not eligible for historic status and B) the increased cost of maintaining a terra cotta building moving forward. It's expensive and difficult to maintain a terra cotta building a century after the material was in wide use -- which is part of the reason why this station fell into disrepair in the first place.

    A new Wilson Station is a good idea but CTA should fold the project back into the Red Purple Modernization project and scrap the Sunnyside entrance and restoration of the non-historic Gerber Building. CTA could save ~$30 million dollars by scrapping these two aspects of the project and transit riders would notice almost zero difference.

    Spending $203M on this one station when the entire RPM project has $120M in total funding at present is hard to justify. This project should be put back into context with the rest of RPM so that spending decisions can be made in a more judicious and less capricious manner.

  • In reply to josephm:

    Unfortunately for your theory (1) none of this is relevant to the environmental process* and (2) the RPM isn't going to happen for at least 10 years, and as I noted above, the $120 million might fix the Bryn Mawr station, but certainly is only 12% of the $1 billion needed.

    *The environmental assessment has to do with land condemned, sightlines, and affected species. You are wasting your time unless the plan has detrimental effect on the coyote population.

  • In reply to jack:

    CTA issued a combined EA and Section 4(f) report. The facts I note above related to the Wilson/Gerber Station come directly from the EA / Section 4(f) report. If you are correct that these topics are irrelevant to the environmental process then take issue with CTA -- who goes on at length about them in their own report. See sections 3.6 of the EA & section 5 of the Section 4(f) report -- it's all in the same PDF.

    If you combine return Wilson Station to the RPM project as it was originally planned you can combine the the $203M for Wilson with the $120M Core Capacity grant for RPM and move forward the timeline of the entire RPM project -- providing more benefit to a greater number of transit riders more quickly.

    CTA is going to have spent $1 Billion on Red Line improvements and made no headway at all on the Red South Extension or Red Purple Modernization. The City of Chicago isn't seeing any influx of money like ARRA or Illinois Jobs Now at any point in the foreseeable future. CTA needs to have a focus on system improvement, not a ribbon-cutting mentality that does little to increase ridership. The Red South Reconstruction project was run with the right mentality. The Wilson Station project is the antithesis of that project.

  • In reply to josephm:

    1. I said the Gerber Building may be a point of contention. Nonethless, there is going to have to be a station house.

    2. I've said before that the L system is underfunded by $4 billion with no source of funding. This isn't going to make that much difference moneywise, but to make it clearer, CTA's money priorities have nothing to do with this hearing.

    3. CTA holds these hearings only because it has to.

    4. The only mentality behind the Red Line South Project is that CTA had state bond money, about $100 million of which that didn't build anything, but apparently went into unreported free fares. As you said, there doesn't appear to be any more of that money.

    5. I suppose you'll be out there protesting the haphazard O'Hare branch 4-year plan, too. Certainly, you should be protesting the Ashland BRT.

  • In reply to josephm:

    Yeah, this project definitely can't wait until the RPM project, the whole thing is so rickety... Some of the stairs on the south entrance literally pop up when you step on them as most of the bolts are gone, the whole thing just feels and looks unsafe.

    The Sunnyside entrance is also a really good idea and shouldn't be scraped. Most riders come from south of the station (Since if you live just one or two blocks north of the station, chances are, you're closer to Lawrence), so having an entrance 1 block further south is a great idea. Not to mention Target is right on Sunnyside, which will benefit red line riders who get off at Wilson for Target.

  • In reply to Rob M:

    The max capacity of any future Red Line L train is 10 cars long. Your train ride starts when you board the train, not when you enter the station. The 3rd Sunnyside entrance doesn't magically stretch out the train you are trying to catch.there is only so much time you can save by building entrances at points outside the 10 car length of a single train. You still have to walk to the train from the entrance. CTA is talking about spending millions of dollars on an extra entrance that will save some subset of riders a few hundred feet of walking at best -- all while draining small businesses on Broadway of foot traffic. Is it nice to have more entrances than fewer but to fund more entrances at Wilson at the expense of other system priorities is wasteful.

  • In reply to josephm:

    If the station were fixed up, perhaps it would rank higher than #27 in the weekday ridership. As it is now, I imagine some people avoid it on purpose.

    How do you figure that the station is more expensive than Grand or Chicago red line, or the Belmont/Fullerton stations? Do you have facts to back that up? Is it the 2nd most expensive if you calculate older stations with inflation?

  • In reply to chris:

    The renovation cost of Grand was $73.6 million in 2012 dollars. Grand is somewhere around the #10 busiest station. The sum total of the Belmont and Fullerton reconstruction (complex stations with purple and brown line transfers) was $93.3M in 2005 dollars or $144M in today's dollars -- for two stations in the top 5 of ridership. Track costs aside, CTA is spending more than 2x as much on Wilson Station and many times on a per rider basis.

  • In reply to josephm:

    Where do you suggest the waste is? Saving terra cotta and having 3 entrances doesn't cost $100M.

  • In reply to chris:

    The Sunnyside entrance is extraneous. The restoration of the Gerber building adds ~50% to the cost of Wilson Station above building a new station like Belmont or Fullerton or Howard. If you allow for $75 million for the needed track reconstruction (a rough estimate I got at a CTA budget meeting from a CTA official - and much needed) that leaves ~$128M for the 3 entrances. I'm estimating ~$10M for the new Sunnyside entrance and ~$20M in excess costs for the optional Gerber restoration. My math still leaves $98M dollars to reconstruct 2 entrances Wilson Station - or $25M more than it cost to rebuild Grand or $20M more than it cost to build Fullerton or Belmont with inflation adjusted dollars.

  • In reply to josephm:

    I don't understand your numbers. Did you add or subtract out the extraneous renovation and relocation of both Belmont and Fullerton stationhouses? I'm also not quite sure if either were officially historic stationhouses, perhaps money could have been saved by tearing those down instead. (or even leaving out any unnecessary escalators) Certainly, anything that leaves the stations more similiar to the early 1900s, when 2-car trains were being used, could be considered extraneous.

  • In reply to JohnT:

    My rough estimates of the $203M Wilson Station project costs:
    Track costs = ~$75M (much needed)
    Sunnyside entrance = ~$10M ( $10M could be deleted)
    Wilson Station with restoration = ~$118M (restoration is not required)
    Wilson Station with new rebuild = ~$98M (a $20M savings)
    Savings = ~$30M

    All of the above assumes a modern track and platform construction allowing for the future operation of 10 car trains and ADA access in both the N and S entrances to a new Wilson Station.

    The Belmont and Fullerton station figures are for comparison. Belmont and Fullerton were used because they were multiplatform stops that also included Purple Line transfers and ADA access and were only recently completed. Do your own analysis if you are so inclined. The website has lists of past CTA construction projects with costs and has all the ridership figures you could want. Kevin linked to the EA and Section 4(f) report in his post. If you use past station costs as a precedent, the Wilson Station project is significantly more expensive both in gross dollars and in per rider dollars.

  • In reply to josephm:

    However, you don't have real figures. Why don't your FOIA them from the CTA? Not that it is going to make any difference.

    Do you have a civil engineering background?

  • In reply to josephm:

    Everything you suggest does not eliminate the cost difference between it and other similar stations. Still only adds up to $30M. I'm sure a large part of the cost is redoing the supports where the tracks go over Broadway to eliminate supports in the road and everything that entails.

  • In reply to josephm:

    A large part of the cost in addition to the total replacement of tracks 2-4, will be the complete replacement of track 1 which will have to be raised up, since the current incline from Lawrence south to the platform is due to the no longer extant connection to the Milwaukee Road Seminary Ave. branch, which delivered coal to Lill Coal until the early 1970s & lumber to the Hines Lumber Mears Yard, where the west tracks at the Howard L Yard are now.

  • And when the public hearing is over, maybe the operators/motormen will get off their train at Wilson, and clean up afterword.

  • After the hearing is over,perhaps the operators/motormen can get off their train at Wilson, and clean up the hall.

  • I think it's fabulous they're going to put an entrance near the Target AND that they're going to restore the Gerber building.

  • @jack - I don't believe you can FOIA cost information about projects that are in planning stages. I think it has something to do with the proprietary interests of the bid winner. I don't have any engineering background. The $75M track/$125M station cost breakdown I got verbally at the December 2012 CTA budget meeting from a CTA official. The Wilson Station cost figures just sound high to me. If it sounds like a bargain to other people, so be it.

  • In reply to josephm:

    If contracts have not been awarded yet, you are correct about FOIA, but that shows the fallacy of your analysis.

    Any numbers you have are only estimates, and may have no correspondence to actual costs or bids. Examples--
    --the two stations you mentioned were part of the Brown Line "new start." The original bids on the project as a whole came in way over budget. The job was split, and at least on parts of the project other than the 2 stations, a Homer Simpson job was done at a total cost of over $500 million.
    --on the other hand, CTA said it had to exercise all the options on the 5000 series rail cars, at $1.4 million each, because rebidding would cost $2.4 million each. Similar was said when the solicitation for the 7000s was issued, but no, it didn't make sense that there would be 70% inflation, and the successful bid was for $1.6 million.

    That's why I brought up whether you had a civil engineering background. The way I see it, while CTA's numbers can be questioned, you need something more than a couple of numbers they gave you at the budget hearing; you need to have the means of analyzing and pricing out the specifications, just as a contractor would. Basically, it has nothing to do with with anyone else thinking it is a bargain. Also, as I said at the top, it has very little of anything to do with the scope of the environmental impact statement hearing.

  • In reply to jack:

    By your standards very few people could participate as citizens in any process. You are saying its not enough for me to attend a CTA budget hearing and a Wilson Station open house, to speak to a CTA official and get an estimates of track costs vs. station costs, to take a look at the amount of riders that use a given station using CTA's own data, and then make comparisons using the most similar stations in the system? How are people supposed to provide any oversight role as citizens using your constraints? You say yourself that "CTA holds these hearings only because it has to". So in addition to CTA not listening, I have to be a civil engineer to even be begin to be ignored?

    I make no claim that my numbers are anything but rough estimates but they are better than what CTA is offering in terms of Wilson Station project element costs which is nothing. Yes, the Brown Line project was done on the cheap. Does that mean that CTA should now spend 40% of the entire Brown Line project budget on one segment of the Red Line at Wilson? What happens when the money runs out? You get neglect of existing infrastructure. Case in point: Wilson Station for the last 30 years.

  • In reply to josephm:

    You really talked yourself into a circle.

    Rahm, Forrest, and Terry have made it abundantly clear (such as at budget hearings and mandated hearings on the service cuts known as the Crowd Reduction Plan and fare increase known as Ventra) that they don't listen, even though Terry lied about it. The only thing that seems to get Rahm's attention is when community opposition gets so bad, such as on the Ashland BRT, that he has to come out and say that this plan has not been approved yet. So, if you think that citizen participation is going to do something, you have to vote Rahm out of office first.

    Then you say you are using numbers from a defective job (rotten platform wood) not of the scope stated (there were in 2013 projects on the part south of the portal) and say that is a comparison.

    I'm not saying that one has to be a civil engineer to participate in a futile manner, but it sure looks like one has to be an engineer to see if CTA misestimated the actual cost of construction, as it did in the two examples I stated.

  • In reply to josephm:

    I should add to my last sentence "before the job has even been put out to bid."

  • "over 100 security cameras"??

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