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.

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