Public-private partnership could fund Chicago's One Central transit hub

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This map shows the location of the proposed One Central development, which would include a new transit hub.
Landmark Development
A diagram shows the connections — those that exist, and those that would have to be built — for the proposed One Central transit center.
Landmark Development

CHICAGO — A major infrastructure program approved by the Illinois General Assembly calls for creation of a public-private partnership to help fund the construction of a $3.8 billion transit center linking Amtrak, Metra, the CTA, and the South Shore railroad in Chicago’s South Loop area.

The transit center would be part of a 34-acre residential and commercial development called One Central, which would be built on the air rights over the Metra tracks just west of Soldier Field. [See “Transit center proposed as key part of development over Metra tracks near Soldier Field,” Trains News Wire, March 14, 2019.]

Approved last weekend, the Public-Private Partnership for Civic and Transit Infrastructure Project Act calls for the developer, Wisconsin-based Landmark Development, to build and operate the transit center, which the state would help finance and eventually take over. 

But transportation experts are questioning the necessity and the location of the proposed transit center. Joseph Schwieterman, a DePaul University professor and director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, told Trains News Wire he was skeptical of the “enormous undertaking” that would be involved to connect the CTA’s Orange Line, via a new spur, and Metra’s BNSF Line, via the St. Charles Air Line, to the site. Metra’s Electric District and the South Shore already use the tracks. Amtrak uses the Air Line.

The conceptual plan also calls for a proposed wheeled tram on a paved route, now used by buses, that runs alongside the Metra tracks. The tram, called the Chi-Line, would travel between McCormick Place and Chicago’s downtown. 

Metra already uses Chicago Union Station, LaSalle Street Station, and the Ogilvie Transportation Center for the majority of its passengers.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning has already advocated for such a transportation center in the West Loop. This center would reconfigure Union Station and ultimately lead to greatly improved connections between rapid transit, bus, commuter rail, and intercity rail services, according to CMAP’s On to 2050 master plan. 

The $20 billion One Central development faces many hurdles. The developer has briefed the transit agencies and the city but has not received any official backing. Landmark has yet to submit any formal plans for the project. Neighborhood groups and area legislators have expressed concerns.

Indeed, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reportedly was upset with Landmark for first getting approval for the public-private partnership legislation “under cover of darkness.”

One Central harkens back to the name Central Station, the name for the neighborhood. That also refers to the site’s past as the location of Illinois Central’s Chicago station.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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