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City proposes new Metra station on Ashland Avenue to serve Fulton Market, West Loop

The new station would improve connectivity to the Illinois Medical District, Kinzie Industrial Corridor, Fulton Market, the United Center and educational institutions.

A Metra train exits Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago in the morning on September 21, 2018.
The Chicago Department of Transportation and Metra officials propose to build a new Metra station near Ashland and Ogden avenues.
Sun-Times file

The growing Fulton Market area might welcome a new Metra station as part of an effort to ease rail congestion and expand access to jobs west of the Loop.

The Chicago Department of Transportation and Metra officials propose to put a platform east of Ashland Avenue with walkways on the east and west sides of the street, which will span most of the distance to Ogden Avenue. The platform would be over tracks where four Metra lines already pass through.

Jeffrey Sriver, with the CDOT, said the expansion would improve connectivity to the Illinois Medical District, Kinzie Industrial Corridor, Fulton Market, the United Center and educational institutions.

He added it would also help many Chicagoans from disadvantaged communities as well those who work in these employment hubs — particularly the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Illinois Medical District — while also helping connect suburbanites to a growing economic engine.

Sriver said Damen and Racine avenues were ruled out for the new station because of the disruption in service it might cause or safety issues.

The new station was unveiled during a virtual community meeting Tuesday evening in which Metra also said the Ashland and Ogden platform could only happen if a new flyover was constructed simultaneously. The current rail crossing is a bottleneck.

The crossing at Kinzie Street and Western Avenue is where four Metra lines intersect and where at least three other lines traverse through to access maintenance and storage facilities.

Over 200 trains daily cross through the interlocking system with more than half of Metra riders relying on these trains. A flyover would prevent bottlenecks and expand services to the West Side and O’Hare.

David Kralik, Metra’s department head for long-range planning, said the crossing now is like putting a four-way stop sign in the middle of an expressway.

“A flyover must be built before or at the same time of a new station in order to facilitate station construction,” Kralik said.

The preliminary cost estimate for the flyover — a bridge that raises one set of tracks over another — is $1.2 billion. The new station is expected to cost about $500 million. The project would rely on federal funding.

Sriver said both projects still need to be studied and could take 10 years to complete.