Chicago Transit Authority’s $75 million gem opens

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View of the canopies from the rear of an Orange Line train at the Washington and Wabash "L" station in Chicago.
Bob Johnston
CHICAGO — The Windy City’s Loop got a significant mobility upgrade with the recent opening of a new “L” station at Washington Street and Wabash Avenue. It replaces an elderly facility one block south and one to the north that closed Sept. 3.

For Chicago Transit Authority riders, the new $75-million station offers escalator and elevator access from street level for the first time on the portion of the elevated structure, built in 1897, nearest tourist attraction Millennium Park and Metra Electric’s Randolph Street Station on Michigan Avenue.

Built-in accessibility extends to the wide concrete platforms as well, where a wide pillar-less mezzanine fare collection level and 10- to 13-foot-wide trackside boarding areas replace wooden-planked narrow passageways still in use elsewhere on the system.

But the most striking design element for transit users and pedestrian observers alike is the sweeping platform canopies modeled after Italian architect Santiago Calatrava’s addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, New York’s World Trade Center transit hub, and railway stations in Europe.

Most other CTA stations only offer limited cover from the elements; if passengers want to board a car at the front or end of a train, they have to shiver or get soaked in snow or rain while waiting. Not so at Washington and Wabash, where 425-foot platforms are capped with soaring steel beams assembled in a ribbed wave pattern supporting clear glass panes.

The structure’s architects tell Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin that the curves, “provide a lacy counterpoint to the Loop’s muscular buildings and anticipate the soft, naturalistic forms of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan.”

Kamin notes that the laser-cut picket guardrails throughout the station, “echo the canopies undulating motif.”

The station will be especially appreciated by anyone who has ever lugged a suitcase up two sets of stairs at most other Loop stations to catch an Orange Line train to Midway Airport. The station also serves the CTA’s Brown, Purple, Green, and Pink routes.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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