CHICAGO (CBS) — Broken beams and tracks out of service. It seems like Metra makes headlines every week.
Repairs are underway at home base in Union Station, but commuters are struggling to see the benefits of another huge project that recently was completed.
Metra riders like Brianna Cokley trod towards the trains with fingers crossed, unsure of what lies ahead for the commute, and what lies beneath Union Station.
“It’s always interesting if I’m going to get home on time, or even be able to get on the train in a timely fashion,” Cokley said.
Commuter chaos constantly hits the Amtrak-owned train depot. Last month, concrete fell on a passenger as a rotten beam came crashing down on the tracks.
As Union Station’s underground chips away, upgrades above ground are being trumpeted.
Recently-released video, courtesy of EarthCam, shows a timelapse of renovations made to the Great Hall. After a $22 million restoration, the Great Hall’s skylight no longer leaks.
Why would the average Chicagoan care about the beautification of Union Station?
“For one, this part of the Loop has got new energy. You’ve got new office development. Corporate headquarters are moving here,” said DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schwieterman.
Schwieterman said there are benefits to the renovations to Union Station. He called the Great Hall and its newly spruced-up statues and columns a “Chicago showpiece.”
“We have enough bad news around this city. It’s really exciting that one of our great landmarks has new life. Every month you see a new improvement. It’s a special place,” he said.
Some passengers aren’t amused by the paradox of Union Station; a stunning but much less-trafficked entryway versus a crowded underbelly where, among other problems, a pipe burst in recent weeks.
“I never go there. Give me trains that work,” Metra rider Dwight Canfield said. “If we have to pay more to get a better system, let’s do it. It’s important.”
“The skylights, it’s a great feature for looks, but not interested,” Cokley said.
Amtrak said the bills and associated repairs for January’s falling concrete fall on the building that sits above the tracks.
The owners of the building responsible for the damaged concrete said they’ve been working on several repairs since 2017, and ramped up their efforts after the January incident.