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Expect longer Metra trips as construction season begins

A Metra locomotive

Metra officials say track improvements and other projects could add 10 to 15 minutes to a typical trip. | Sun-Times file photo

The first of $200 million in 2016 Metra construction projects kicks off this week, including replacing railroad ties on seven Metra lines and upgrading an entrance to Union Station.

In total, 27 Metra stations, 21 bridges and 24 road crossings should see in improvements. On Wednesday, Metra released a map of 66 projects.

In addition, about 120,000 railroad ties will be laid starting this month on portions of the Metra Electric, Milwaukee North, Rock Island, UP North, UP West, UP Northwest and BNSF lines.

That work and other improvements could add 10 to 15 minutes to a trip, Metra officials warned. Most of the work will be done during off-peak hours and on weekends.

Schedule changes should be reflected in Metra’s Rail-Time Tracker, Schedule Finder, and the Ventra App’s Transit Tracker. Plus, construction schedules should be posted at www.metrarail.com.

Also this year, the Madison Street entrance to Chicago Union Station will undergo a facelift. About $826,000 in work is planned, including repairs to pavers, stairs and the entrance ceiling. Work should begin in June and take four months to complete.

Among the most expensive Metra construction projects to start this spring is the $5.5 million renovation of the Calumet Station on the Metra Electric Line. That work will include the rebuilding of platforms, construction of a new elevator and replacement of stairs.

Metra this year is experimenting with a new form of platform snow removal. It will be installing $700,000 worth of heated platform technology on the 123rd Station of the Rock Island Line for testing this winter.

Metra spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said the total $200 million in 2016 capital work is “in line with what we’ve done in the past several years.” Of that amount, Metra will be kicking in $130 million, she said.