By AARON GETTINGER
A $2.5 million investment from the University of Chicago has spurred Metra to commit to making the 59th Street station compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The platforms and station houses will be renovated, new platform shelters and an elevator will be installed and the station’s entrance on 60th Street, which has been closed for decades, will be reopened, according to Metra spokeswoman Meg Thomas-Reile.
“The school and us, we’ve been talking for the past several years on doing this,” Thomas-Reile said: a memorandum of understanding on the $2.5 million commitment was signed in 2015. Metra observed receipt of the money into its capital program at an Aug. 14 Board of Directors meeting, as first reported by Streetsblog Chicago.
“It’s not just that the wheels grind slowly,” she explained. “There were mitigating factors here, in that originally Metra’s part of the funding was going to come through the capital bill that Gov. Quinn had passed. When Gov. Rauner came into office, they froze for a while and then greatly reduced the amount of funding that was coming to us from the state’s capital program. Everything was on hold.
“Now with the new capital program — although every line item hasn’t been decided upon — it is true that we’re going to be getting this money, so it’s much more likely that we’re going to be able to move on this more quickly and get this going.”
“I think it’s time,” said Linda Lewis, a Metra customer. “I used to come down here every day because all the trains stopped here. It was easier for me to get a train no matter what time I came to the station, as opposed to where I live on 83rd.
“Over the years, the entrance here got a little scary. It just needs to be upgraded. I know it’s a busy station, especially here with the university and people coming here and parking. It wears out over the years, and it does need upgrading. I’m also sure that people are going to be glad that the 60th Street entrance is going to be reopened.”
Renovation designs are to be confirmed at the end of the year, with contractor bidding and construction to begin in 2020. Thomas-Reile could not estimate a completion date or the total cost of the project.
The station’s 60th Street entrance has been closed since before Metra took ownership of the Electric District in 1987.
“There’s a number of things going on,” she said. “Yes, the Obama library is going in nearby — but even before that, it’s how the area is developing is my understanding. They wanted that entrance, so we’ve worked with them to make that happen.”
In the fall of 2018, the station had an average of 812 weekday boardings, well above Metra’s median station ridership of 410 commuters.
Bus stops near the station serve CTA routes 2 (Hyde Park Express), 6 (Jackson Park Express), 15 (Jeffery Local), 28 (Stony Island), 59 (59th/61st), 171 (U. of Chicago/Hyde Park) and 172 (U. of Chicago/Kenwood).