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The New Wilson ‘L’ Platform Will Be Massive – The Widest in the System

Wilson current project state - aerial lowres (1)
A recent aerial view of the Wilson station. The old platform is on the left. The much wider new island platform is on the right. Photo: CTA

This morning the CTA celebrated the completion of more than 50 percent of the Wilson station reconstruction project, shortly after all customer boarding was moved to the recently completed west island platform. Now that both sides of the new platform are completed and the transit agency is working on demolishing the old one, you can get a sense of just how big the station will be when both island platforms are in place. The entire track and platform combo will be the widest in the system, dwarfing even the double-island-platform at the Belmont Red/Purple/Brown station.

This week the transit agency is beginning the third phase of the $203 million reconstruction project, which includes rebuilding the station house to make it wheelchair accessible and reconstructing all track structures next to the station. After Phase Three is completed in late 2017, the train stop will become a new transfer point between the Red and Purple lines.

Looking north from the new platform this morning. Old platform is visible on the right. Photo: John Greenfield

At today’s press conference, 46th Ward alderman James Cappleman argued that the station project is already providing a shot in the arm to the local economy. He noted that about 50 percent of nearby residents don’t own cars, but they often leave the neighborhood to shop. However, Cappleman said the new station has encouraged 18 new businesses to open in the ward, noting that there will soon be four independently owned coffee shops on Wilson near the station.

CTA president Dorval Carter Jr. said the Wilson station rehab is the latest in several upcoming planned Red Line improvements, including the Red-Purple Modernization project and the south Red Line extension. He put in a word for the city’s proposal for a new Transit TIF (tax-increment financing) district along the north Red Line to help fund RPM improvements.

Dorval Carter Jr. speaks at this morning's press conference. Photo: John Greenfield

While Carter acknowledged that the TIF plan is “controversial,” he argued that financing transit infrastructure via property tax would be a wise move. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the dollars that we invest in transit stations pay back tenfold to the community we serve.”

Carter said the Wilson overhaul has created about 550 jobs. “I hope to be able to replicate that with the RPM project tenfold.”

Rendering of the completed platforms. Image: CTA

Last March the CTA opened the west half of the Wilson stop’s new west platform and began using it for southbound boarding, with northbound customers boarding from the old platform. Now that both sides of the western platform are open, the platform is being used for both northbound and southbound boarding.

As part of the new construction phase, the CTA will rebuild the third of the four tracks, the northbound Red Line track, along with related elevated structure. After the old platform is demolished, workers will build the new east island platform that will eventually serve northbound Red and Purple trains. The west platform will then be used only for southbound boarding. Purple trains will run on the two outside tracks and Red trains will run on the two inside tracks.

A worker removes part of the facade of the old station house. As part of the project, the station's historic clock tower will be restored. Photo: John Greenfield

Red and Purple Line Express service at the Wilson station will continue during Phase Three and the station will remain open. In the morning weekday rush periods only, Red and Purple Line Express trains will continue to share one southbound track, as they have since early 2015.

Customers will see the following changes for the duration of the third phase:

Red Line

    • Service level, frequency and travel times will remain the same

Purple Line Express

    • Service level, frequency and travel times will remain the same
    • Southbound trains will continue to make stops at Wilson and Sheridan during morning rush only

Wilson station

    • The station will remain open.
    • All customers traveling both northbound and southbound will use the new west island platform.
    • The old Wilson station at the northwest corner of Wilson and Broadway is now permanently closed. While the new station house is under construction, customer will use temporary entrances at the north and south side of Wilson.

As an Uptown resident myself, I’m looking forward to the positive changes that will be coming to the neighborhood with the opening of the new station. It is already inspiring a wave of new transit-oriented development projects near the station.

However, as the neighborhood becomes an increasingly attractive place to live thanks to the improved transit service, and property values and taxes rise, hopefully decision makers will work to preserve housing affordability in the neighborhood. That’s going to be crucial if Uptown is going to maintain its status as one of Chicago’s most economically and ethnically diverse, as well as transit-friendly, communities.

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