Thar She Blows! Whale Skeleton-Like Washington-Wabash Stop Debuts

The new station at night. Photo: CDOT
The new station at night. Photo: CDOT

Faster than you can say “Calatrava,” the new Washington-Wabash ‘L’ station opened to customers today, featuring an undulating, ribbed canopy that’s reminiscent of a whale’s skeleton. The $75 million project is Chicago’s latest piece of marquis transportation project, and the first new CTA train stop to open downtown in two decades.

Emanuel tours the station at this morning's ribbon cutting. Photo: CDOT
Emanuel tours the station at this morning’s ribbon cutting. Photo: CDOT

The morning city officials cut the ribbon on the new station, whose design echoes the skeletal design of the nearby Loop Link BRT stop canopies. “The new CTA station at Washington and Wabash represents the best of Chicago’s heritage of architectural innovation and ingenuity while creating modern amenities for the thousands of travelers who utilize it every day,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement.

The station sits over historic Jeweler's Row. Photo: Ann Alt
The station sits over historic Jeweler’s Row. Photo: Ann Alt

The Washington-Wabash stop replaces the Madison/Wabash and Randolph/Wabash stations that were built over 120 years ago, and consolidating the two stops will create a slightly faster commute for straphangers. The city says the new station is the first fully wheelchair accessible CTA stop with four elevators, an escalator, and a platform that is wider than most others in the Loop.

Washington-Wabash is expected to become one of CTA’s top ten busiest rail stations, providing more than 10,000 rides per day on the Brown, Green, Orange, Pink and Purple Lines. The aesthetically pleasing facility is intended to encourage more transit trips to the Jeweler’s Row district beneath the tracks, and to serve as a gateway to Michigan Avenue, Millennium Park, and the East Loop.

“This station will ensure people with disabilities will have an accessible stop on the east side of the Loop, opening new opportunities to access the city like never before,” Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities commissioner Karen Tamley said in a statement. “It also brings us one step closer to creating 100 percent CTA rail station accessibility across the system and putting us even farther ahead of other legacy systems.” The agency recently announced that its goal is to make all stations wheelchair accessible within the next two decades.

the station as seen from the street. Photo: Anne Alt
The station as seen from the street. Photo: Anne Alt

The station features new public art by local artist Michiko Itatani. According to the city, the two large art glass panels located on both sides of the mezzanine, entitled “Cosmic Wanderlust 1 & 2,” “reflect on human history and culture of the past, present and future.” The work features images of libraries, museums, public spaces and performance halls combined with images of the cosmos.

Now that Washington-Wabash is open, Randolph/Wabash will permanently close on Sunday and and is slated for demolition and removal by the end of the year.

If you’ve had a chance to check out Chicago’s newest transit landmark, what do you think of the new design?

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