Wilson El Stop Renovation to Take 33 Months

By Clayton Guse

PostedFriday, Oct. 12, 2012

For years, Uptown residents have asked for a facelift for the deteriorating Wilson Red Line Stop.

It will soon get much more than that.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th Ward) hosted an open house meeting at Truman College Thursday to announce the details of a $203 million reconstruction project for the Wilson station that CTA officials hope will provide a template for other, similar projects.

The project will shift Wilson's main entrance to the south side of Wilson Avenue, add a new entrance one block south on Sunnyside Avenue, provide handicap-accessible ramps and elevators, become a new connection for Purple Line Express trains as well as shift the Red Line track to eliminate a cumbersome overpass at Broadway Avenue.

“This is what we see as the model for future stops,” said Kevin O'Malley, CTA general manager of Strategic planning.

Wilson Renovation Photo 
Rendering of what the Wilson stop could look like when
the project is completed. (Photo courtesy 46th Ward office)


Local officials have been pushing for renovations to the run-down Wilson station for more than a decade. A surge of state funds moved the project into fruition this time around.

The reconstruction is a part of the CTA's $1 billion “Red Ahead” program that will provide key updates throughout the Red Line. Over 80 percent of the funding for the Wilson project comes from the Illinois Jobs Now program, with the remaining funding coming from the Federal Transit Administration and tax-increment financing, according to the CTA.

Officials estimate that the project will take 33 months to complete, with construction set to begin next summer. Because Red Line trains will have the ability to shift to Purple Line tracks, service closures will not be necessary during the work, unlike the five-month shutdown for the Dan Ryan branch of the Red Line starting next spring.

“You may have some impacts on service, as with any project,” said John Titzer, CTA general manager of construction. “At this point, we have not quantified those interruptions.”

Video vault: Uptown residents and others talk about the need for improvements to the Wilson stop.

While Purple Line tracks will be in operation during the construction, Wilson riders will not have access to Purple Line Express trains until the project is complete. When that occurs, Wilson will be the only Red Line transfer-point between the Belmont and Howard stations.

“The Purple Line will give commuters the ability to have faster service to downtown,” O'Malley said. “It will draw in commuters from other areas, giving a great opportunity for the local entertainment venues.”

The new station will boast several access options for customers with disabilities, a feature that is entirely absent at the current stop. There will be two elevators and a handicap ramp that will extend to the southern entrance at Sunnyside Avenue.

“Recently, I helped a disabled woman up the station's stairs,” said Wilson commuter Venice Gutierrez. “It took nearly 10 minutes. If there were elevators it wouldn't be a problem.”

Garland Armstrong, who is on the CTA's American Disability Association advisory committee, is pleased with the plans for the new station. 

“These additions are long overdue,” he said. “The station will have a ramp in case the elevators go out, more lighting, more accessibility, more security. These plans are great.”

The ramp leading down to the station's southern entrance at Sunnyside Avenue will provide easy access to shops like Target and Aldi for commuters, but CTA officials hope that the new entrance will increase ridership at the station.

“The goal of adding the entrance on Sunnyside [Ave] is to capture more riders,” said CTA spokesperson Catherine Hosinski. “Two entrances will increase accessibility for the entire area.”

Wilson Renovation Inside

Rendering of what the inside of the Wilson El stop could look
like after the renovation.
(Photo courtesy 46th Ward office)

The defunct Gerber Building will undergo heavy renovations as a part of this project, an effort that officials hope will allow for retail opportunities to open up in the location.

“There have been talks of an indoor farmer's market in the [Gerber] Building,” O'Malley said, “but that will be something to be discussed when the station is finished.”

Unlike Wilson Avenue, Sunnyside Avenue is secluded from busy traffic and could pose threats to the security of commuters using the new southern entrance.

“We will light up and secure the areas surrounding the stop everywhere we have the ability to do so,” O'Malley said.

The Wilson station was once the pride of Chicago's public transportation. This project seeks to return it to such a state, officials say.

“I think it's time for a change,” Gutierrez said. “Considering the proximity of Truman College and the state of the platform, this project needs to happen.”

Video vault: See the poor conditions of the current Wilson stop.

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