After the Election, Two New Chicago Metra Stations Are on the Horizon

Future site of the Peterson-Ravenswood stop. Photo: Igor Studenkov
Future site of the Peterson-Ravenswood stop. Photo: Igor Studenkov

Now that the April 2 runoff election is behind us, a new alderman-elect in on the North Side, and an incumbent who survived a runoff, should take action to help shepherd plans for two new Metra stations to fruition.

In the 40th Ward, the Peterson-Ridge station has been a longtime pet project of Alderman Patrick O’Connor, who was defeated by Andre Vasquez. And in the 6th Ward, where incumbent alderman Rodrick Sawyer prevailed in a runoff, the Auburn Park station has been in the works for some time.

State funding for both stations was approved during Governor Pat Quinn’s administration, but it fell into limbo during the two-year-plus budget crisis under Bruce Rauner. Last month, new governor J.B. Pritzker released $15 million in funding for the Peterson-Ridge station, but the money for the Auburn Park station remains in limbo.

Two years ago, I wrote extensively about the plans for both stations, so I won’t repeat all of that here. In short, Peterson Ridge station is slated to be located in on the section of Union Pacific North line that runs through Edgewater, on the currently vacant lot between Peterson Avenue, Ravenswood Avenue, Ridge Avenue and the train embankment.

The Auburn Park station would be located on the west end of the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, over the spot where a freight line and the Rock Island District Line cross 79th Street. Building this station would be relatively complicated because the two sets of tracks run on separate embankments that are set on top of each other.

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Metra’s Rock Island Line and freight tracks intersect at 79th and Wallace. Photo: Igor Studenkov

And while the Peterson-Ridge station would be located entirely within the 40th Ward, the Auburn Park station site is split between 6th and 17th wards. The latter is represented by incumbent alderman David Moore, who won 67 percent of the vote in the February election, avoiding a runoff.

Both stations have been billed as ways to improve transportation access and encourage development. the Auburn Park station is one of the key components of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation’s plans to redevelop the blocks near 79th and Halsted streets, three blocks west of the station site. And the Peterson-Ridge station has been billed as a way to relieve overcrowding on the adjacent Ravenswood and Rogers Park stations.

Metra’s 2013-2017 capital projects plan stated that the Peterson-Ridge station would cost $15 million, while the Auburn Park station would cost $21.5 million.

The design for Peterson-Ridge has already been completed, so now that Pritzker has released the money to build it, the next step is to select a construction contractor. The Chicago Tribune has reported that Metra will do so this summer and begin construction “soon after.” And according to a press release on O’Connor’s website, he plans to hold community meetings to “identify issues related to construction and parking” in the near future. Once Vasquez replaces O’Connor, he’ll have to deal with whatever traffic issues do arise, as well as make decisions about any development that might go up around the new station.

Meanwhile, the Auburn Park project remains on ice. While both of the local aldermen are incumbents, Sawyer faced his first run-off as an incumbent, winning reelection by less than 800 votes. Whether that close call will affect his policies remains to be seen, but he would be wise to prioritize making the new station a priority, since it could be a major economic boost for his district.

  • Harvey Kahler

    There was an Auburn Park stop on the Rock Island that was discontinued about the time the nearby CTA Dan Ryan line opened.

    A Peterson-Ridge station will add to, not alleviate, the overcrowding on UPN trains by drawing additional riders from the Edgewater area. Crowding at stations is not an issue.

    This will bring the number of Metra stations in the City to 81, for which there is only suburban support.

  • William Reed

    Harvey- I appreciate your contribution but want to push back on your general approach to thinking about Metra rail (re)design (and transit assets more generally) and on some of the specifics.
    In your first sentence (implying that closing the original Auburn Park RI stop was justified given the opening of the south branch of the Red Line) you suggest that a rational transit approach will eliminate any potential (perceived) redundancy between rail routes on Metra and rail routes on the CTA. Why not flip that logic around and imagine things in terms of synergies rather than scarcity? The RI and the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line really only follow similar (though by no means identical) routes between 63rd St and Van Buren. Considering that the RI goes all the way to Joliet, and that the Red Line goes to 95th (perhaps one day 130th) and to Howard, that’s actually proportionally a very small region of overlap. Rather than run away from “redundancy”, we should look toward making stronger connections between the lines (for example at 63rd, 35th, and Van Buren, and through integrated payment systems) such that users of either line can expand their usable transit travel area to the extrema of both lines (and beyond).
    In your second sentence (concerned with exacerbated overcrowding on the UPN if an Edgewater station opens), you suggest that crowding issues are more important than goals related to increasing overall transit use (and in turn the long term viability of our transit systems). Instead of retreating to preserving comfortable transit journeys for the lucky few, why not work to increase the frequency of service and passenger capacity of the UPN while also expanding access to more residents? A few well placed turnarounds could potentially allow for 4 hourly trains in either direction between Ogilvie and Evanston on the UPN, lightening the load on the longer haul commuter journeys and providing a huge host of other benefits to many.
    In your third sentence, you incorrectly imply that no city sales tax revenue goes to Metra, ignore the disproportionate city sales tax revenue spent on CTA (used by plenty of suburban consumers and physically extending to several suburbs), ignore the significant portion of federal dollars in Metra’s budget (again, disproportionately from city activities), and ignore ticket revenues, which also significantly come from city residents. It’s also unfair to characterize the 81 stations in the city (if that’s the right number) as being somehow proportionate in resources spent to the suburban stations, which have many more track miles between them and often much more frequent service (for example, compare the number of actual weekly calls on the UPW at Kedzie to Elmhurst).
    Let’s not pit ourselves against each other. To be sure, funding formulas should be fair, and it’s certainly reasonable to debate whether or not they are (and to imagine and advocate for better formulas). But we all share this region and have a stake in convenient, sustainable, safe, and inclusive mobility. Rather than attempt to hoard mobility resources for particular transit constituencies (ie: our own), we should envision regional solutions that increase connectivity, capacity, and access AND improve our personal transit experiences.

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