Eyes on the Street: The New Wilson ‘L’ Station Platform

The new platform, looking south. Photo: John Greenfield

With Monday’s opening of a new, modernized southbound platform, the $203 million Wilson station reconstruction project is now one-third finished. The overhaul, which began in late 2014, is slated for completion by late 2017.

There are currently four entrances to the station. The old main, attended entrance on Broadway, as well as the old auxiliary entrance (with cylindrical “roto-gates” and farecard-only access) on the south side of Wilson are still open, but they’re now most useful for northbound passengers, who catch their trains on the old wooden platform.

Two new, temporary entrances have opened on the north side of Wilson (farecard only) and the south side of the street (attended, with a Ventra machine). These are the most convenient option for southbound passengers, catching trains from the new concrete platform, located west of the old one.

For hardcore transit geeks only, here’s a virtual tour of the station, starting from the entrance on the north side of Wilson.

You can transfer between the two platforms via a temporary pedestrian bridge, which feels like walking through a couple of repurposed shipping containers placed end-to-end.

Enclosed staircases have been added to take you from the new entrances to the new platform. However, the elevator, which will eventually make the station wheelchair accessible, is not open yet, although the elevator shaft has been constructed.

The pedestrian bridge between the old and new platforms. Photo: John Greenfield

The new platform looks sleek and modern, with a translucent, Chicago-flag-blue rain canopy that looks like it would be fairly effective in a downpour. Temporary wind shelters have been erected, but I didn’t notice any seating on the platform.

The rehab will eventually turn the station into a new full-service transfer point between the Red and Purple Lines. With the opening of the new platform, southbound Red and Purple Line Express trains share a track, as they have since early 2015. Loop-bound Purple Express trains will continue to stop at Wilson and Sheridan during the morning rush only, but will no longer stop at Addison during the a.m. rush.

Looking north on the new platform. The beige boxes are wind shelters. Photo: John Greenfield

Northbound Purple Line express trains are not currently stopping at Wilson, but are instead using the easternmost northbound express track.

Monday also marked the beginning of Phase II of the station reconstruction, which includes the demolition and reconstruction of Track 2, the 95th Street-bound Red Line track.

A Loop-bound train pulls into the station on brand-new tracks. Photo: John Greenfield

As part of the entire renovation, about 2,200 feet of elevated tracks, signals, and supporting infrastructure will be replaced. The track structure is over a century old.

The project will also create a more spacious station, with new entrances on Sunnyside and a reconstructed clocktower a the northwest corner of Wilson/Broadway, plus artwork by London-based sculptor Cecil Balmond. Local residents have also proposed transforming the area under the tracks south of Wilson, previously a parking lot, into public space with pedestrian walkways, seating, landscaping, and artwork.

Update 3/24/16: The CTA tells me that some temporary benches have been installed on the new southbound platform.

  • Chicagoan

    Thank you for posting this article, John.

    The new station is going to be a real looker.

  • Local Chicagoan

    Its pretty easy to clone RFID chips when you have the number and name of the card….I’d be more careful.

  • dbekken

    How many elevators does one have to take to bring a bike on train? “Rebuilt” Green Line stations are a disaster… three elevators, and you can’t just carry bikes down!

  • Some of the oldest stations have little channels/rails beside the stairs under the railing so you can roll your bike down safely.

  • dbekken

    I carry the bike, but exit stairways with turnstiles at ground level are a dead end

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Yep: “Do not attempt to carry your bicycle through the tall steel barrier gates. It will get caught! Note: For this reason, customers with bicycles may not exit at the King Drive (accessible) (Green Line) station; please ride to the Cottage Grove (Green Line) station.” http://www.transitchicago.com/riding_cta/how_to_guides/biketrain.aspx

    Judging from the fact that there’s one elevator shaft so far, it looks like there will be only one elevator at Wilson, but I’ll double check.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    CTA: When the project is complete, there will be two elevators at Wilson. One for the southbound platform, one for the northbound platform (not yet constructed). Both elevators will operate from ground level directly to platform level.