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Metra Renovation Plans Generating Controversy

roberts250 Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a native of Wilmette who has worked in Chicago media...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Metra wants to spend money on two Electric District stations that each attract only 50 riders a day.

The Metra board is being asked to approve $800,000 to draw up plans to replace the 95th Street/Chicago State University stop, and $560,000 to renovate the Racine Avenue station on the Electric District’s Blue Island branch.

The proposals are generating some controversy.

The Chicago State stop has a crime problem, and Metra government affairs manager Sam Smith said the station itself is in bad shape.

“Something has to be done,” he said. Director Jack Schaffer said the rotting Racine Avenue shelter “would make a nice fire.”

Several Metra board members asked if it wouldn’t be easier to simply close the little-used stations. Metra CEO Alex Clifford said Chicago State officials and some who live near the Chicago State stop have argued that if a new station were built, ridership would increase.

Clifford said Metra has no clear-cut policy on station closings.

“We need to have a discussion about what is the standard for new stations, what is the minimum expectations of ridership, and what is the standard for keeping stations open, but we don’t have that policy now. That’s going to be a deep, difficult discussion,” Clifford said. “Absent that policy, we would argue that we have an obligation to maintain stations.”

Speaking specifically about the Chicago State stop, he said, “This station is open. We have an obligation to maintain it. It’s in very poor condition.”

The $800,000 earmarked for the Chicago State station would only cover design. Construction costs would be additional. The $560,000 for Racine Avenue would pay to construct a new shelter and stairs, are replace portions of the wooden platforms.

Metra has not renovated either station since it purchased the Electric District from the Illinois Central R.R. in 1986.

The stations are two of 14 in line for funding either for construction or planning as Metra shifts capital priorities and utilizes revenues from Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now infrastructure program.