clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Amtrak-Metra ties are back on track after ruling on Union Station rent

The federal Surface Transportation Board decides that the commuter rail line Metra must fork over an additional $1 million per year.

An Amtrak locomotive is pictured at Union Station in 2019. Federal regulators settled a dispute between Amtrak and Metra Tuesday.
An Amtrak locomotive is pictured at Union Station in 2019. Federal regulators settled a dispute between Amtrak and Metra Tuesday.
Sun-Times file

Federal regulators have settled a landlord-tenant dispute between Amtrak and Metra over the rent for Union Station, with neither side complaining that it’s been railroaded.

The federal Surface Transportation Board, in a Tuesday announcement, decided financial terms for the commuter railroad’s continued use of Union Station, which Amtrak owns. It ordered Metra to pay about an additional $1 million a year, bringing its annual rent to $10.67 million, with yearly increases tied to inflation.

The board’s order settles a dispute dating from at least 2019. A sticking point was how to share the cost of capital improvements when Metra — at least before COVID-19 — accounted for the vast majority of people passing through the terminal.

The federal agency, which decides fights between railroads, essentially split the difference on each side’s fiscal arguments. Amtrak had wanted Metra to pay $14.79 million a year, while Metra countered with $6.74 million.

Unlike a typical rent dispute, eviction was not an option. No one was threatening to disrupt Metra’s service.

Other matters involving the lease are still in dispute, but the railroads have agreed that their deal will run through Sept. 30, 2029, with a 10-year extension option.

Amtrak and Metra both thanked the board for its decision. “We can proceed to complete and sign a lease that is in the best public interest and can continue our work together to safely grow both of our services to the benefit of everyone,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

In a statement, Metra officials said the case “is no simple matter. It involves complex interpretations of laws and regulations, differing opinions about how, when and where to calculate and allocate expenses, and other disputes over which reasonable parties can and do disagree. Metra is grateful for the board’s thoughtful decision, and we look forward to working with Amtrak to resolve our remaining differences. Both parties are simply trying to reach the best resolution for our customers and stakeholders.”

The STB’s ruling said one of its members, onetime Chicago alderman Martin Oberman, did not participate in the ruling. Oberman is a former Metra chairman. Four other board members rendered the decision.