From Green Right Now Reports

Chicago’s Union Station will be getting what many see as a long needed renovation to accommodate heavy traffic.

Union Station will get an expanded lobby and other improvements with an ARRA-funded renovation. (Art source: Midwest High Speed Rail Association.)

Amtrak Board Chairman Tom Carper and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $40 million capital construction project for the iconic downtown train hub, which will double the size of the passenger waiting area, add new restrooms and air conditioning to the “Great Hall”.

The two-year project is expected to create 100 construction jobs and will ready the station for high-speed train service.

“New high-speed and passenger rail service will bring thousands of visitors to downtown Chicago, boosting our tourism industry and supporting Illinois’ continued economic recovery,” said Governor Quinn. “This major construction project will put Illinoisians back to work and help Union Station give visitors to the city of Chicago a welcome befitting the Land of Lincoln.”

The expansion is being made possible by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money. Illinois received $1.2 billion in ARRA funding for rail, most of which is expected to support a high-speed passenger line between Chicago and St. Louis. That service should cut the travel time between the two cities to a few hours hours.

Union Station will serve as hub for the new Midwest high-speed rail network, which is envisioned to connect Chicago to St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis and other cities.

Amtrak has experienced record ridership in recent years, even in advance of high-speed rail service. The numbers are up for all major Midwest routes to and from Union Station, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The Chicago-St. Louis route grew by 11 percent since 2009.

Renowned architect Daniel Burnham designed Union Station, which opened in May 1925, and was memorably featured in the film The Untouchables. In addition to serving 55 Amtrak trains arriving or departing daily, the station serves six of 11 Metra lines.

(For more information see Transforming the Midwest by the MHSRA.)