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Union Station Could Be Test of Chicago's Future During Trump Administration

By Heather Cherone | January 25, 2017 5:26am
 Union Station.
Union Station.
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WEST LOOP — If President Donald Trump is serious about his promise to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, Chicago officials have a plan ready to go that would modernize and expand Union Station.

Trump — who campaigned on a pledge to spend $1 trillion on repairing the nation's roads, airports and bridges — reaffirmed that vow during his Inaugural Address, no doubt boosting Chicago officials' hope that their bid for a $1 billion low-interest federal loan won't fall on deaf ears.

"America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay," Trump said after taking the oath of office.

While Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — who urged the new president Monday to focus on issues that matter rather than the size of the crowd at his inauguration — and Trump don't agree on much, Emanuel has said he hopes to work with the White House on issues like the need to renovate the 14-acre train station at 225 S. Canal St.

"You can't have a 21st century economy on a 20th century foundation, and that's what we have here," Emanuel said Jan. 12 at an event where he announced that the city had moved one step closer to securing the loan during the final days of the Obama Administration.

The master plan for the station includes expanded platforms, bigger entryways and an upgraded heating and air conditioning system designed to improve the air quality in the station, officials said. In addition, plans call for pedestrian tunnels to be built to the nearby Ogilvie Transportation Center and CTA Blue Line stop at Clinton.

More than 300 trains arrive and depart from Union Station five days a week, moving 120,000 passengers past the grand staircase immortalized by the movie "The Untouchables." That is roughly the same amount of people who travel through Midway Airport every week, officials said.

Emanuel said he talked about the ways a Trump administration could help the city with transportation and infrastructure projects during his meeting with Republican businessman turned reality television star turned politician at Trump Tower during the presidential transition.

A list of 50 infrastructure projects obtained by the Kansas City Star under consideration by Trump's team includes the Union Station project as well as the $2.1 billion effort to modernize the Red and Purple CTA train lines, which was approved Jan. 8 by the Obama Administration.

If the city does get the loan from the federal government, it would be paired with an effort by Amtrak — the station's owner — to attract a private developer to the project that could include the construction of a skyscraper next to the station.

Trump has endorsed those sort of public-private partnerships, which could also win support from the Republican-controlled House and Senate, where members are leering about big-ticket spending programs.

"Union Station has a very rich history and it will have a remarkable future," Emanuel said, acknowledging that there is "no guarantee" that Trump or his appointees will keep the long-in-the-works project moving forward.

But, Emanuel said, if Trump does what he has said he wants to do, it is "ideal."