CTA reveals designs for new Wilson Red Line station which show new entrance on Sunnyside


In this drawing of the original and current station house at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Broadway, it appears the station’s architectural heritage is preserved and even restored (see what it used to look like).

The Chicago Transit Authority sent out a press release this morning with five renderings of their proposed design for a reconstructed Red Line station at Wilson Avenue in Uptown. The station was voted “crustiest” by Red Line readers three years in a row (it lost this year to the Sheridan Red Line station).

The project is estimated to cost $203 million; construction will begin in the second quarter of 2013. The station will become a transfer point between Red and Purple lines; the nearest points to do this currently are Belmont (three stops south) and Howard (ten stops north). It will also be an accessible station, helping close the gap on the far north side until the Red and Purple Modernization Project receives funding. The nearest accessible stations currently are Addison (two stops south) and Granville (six stops north).

A new entrance will be built conveniently on Sunnyside Avenue for near-direct access to the Wilson Yard Target and Aldi stores. A rendering of that area was not included in the press release.

The CTA is holding an open house in one week, on Thursday, October 11, from 6-8 PM, at Truman College, 1145 W Wilson Avenue. This may be a good time to talk to the CTA about using the station as a model of future energy uses.


This rendering shows glass canopies of a design that were later nixed from the Brown Line Rehabilitation project.


The station name over Wilson Avenue is reminiscent of the Morgan Street Green/Pink Line station.


A glass enclosed station house on Wilson Avenue. The rendering makes the tracks appear over 20 feet high. The Belmont Station tracks are only about 13 feet high.


A rendering of the bridge over Broadway.

N.B. The business of press releases is amusing. I received it at 5:56 AM with a subject line of “Mayor Emanuel Unveils Designs for Wilson Red Line station”. I’m glad Mayor Emanuel was up at that time unveiling these designs.

38 thoughts on “CTA reveals designs for new Wilson Red Line station which show new entrance on Sunnyside”

    1. That’s the same number of steps as the Kinzie entrance to the Merchandise Mart platform. So I suppose a good height comparison would be the ‘L’ over the Kinzie/Wells intersection.

  1. I am pleased to read that the CTA is re-introducing a previously expired Red-Purple line transfer. Wilson and Sheriden were once transfer stations, and I never quite understood why the CTA took these away.

    Once the Wilson transfer is available again, I hope to see non-rush hour Purple line service to the loop. I believe more north-side residents and tourists would take the CTA during non-rush hours if they had Purple line express service available. Taking the Red line (ie. local/all-stops train) from Rogers park south to the Lincoln Park or the loop is an unnecessarily long commute. New York’s Metro runs express lines during non-rush hours. I don’t know what the additional cost is, but I’d like to. My uninformed guess is that the additional cost is small in the overall budget picture, as the infrastructure (trains, track, and station) are already in place at all times. I think the added costs of non-rush hour Purple line service come down to additional payroll for more operators and train maintenance, and additional energy usage.

      1. So switch the Purple Line back to running express between Belmont and Sedgwick. Or, even better, send the Purple Line into the subway where it can turn back south of Roosevelt, or merge with the Orange Line and give Northsiders a one-seat ride to Midway.

  2. Interesting mix of new and old. I’m very glad they’re preserving the architectural heritage of the location. The new is very sleek and definitely reminiscent of Morgan. What a wonderful update from the scabby mess that is the current Wilson station. Adding an entrance at Sunnyside for the Target store is a VERY smart idea.

    1. This is a great example of an opportunity for value capture. The CTA (the government) will be providing a nearly-direct access to a major shopping destination. The sales at this destination may be higher. So how does the government capture the value it just provided? There are many methods in place around the country. A simple one, and normal here, is a TIF district whose revenues go to capital projects. I believe there’s already one in place. Another way would be to ask that Target pay for extremely direct access: a walkway directly into the store. This is extremely common around the world. The Merchandise Mart Brown/Purple station is the closest example of that.

  3. I am confused as to why they are spending so much on this station? Also, I would have loved to have seen this station moved down near Target, but I guess thats just dreaming. LOL I guess I see so many stations that need ADA work and it just seems they are going all out on this station for some reason. In any event the new station will look great.

    1. If it’s possible to make a station ADA-compliant for 20% or less of the total cost of station (not track) improvements, a public agency MUST make the station accessible. It’s mind boggling that the CTA is going to spend almost $290 million dollars+ on 7 stations on Red Line North over 3 years and get one ADA-station for their money.

      I don’t think CTA even bothered to put a RFP out for any ADA compliance to cost it out with the current Red North Station Improvements which cost $86 million dollars over 7 stations. They changed the user experience (“enhancements” to use CTA lingo) at these stations, which requires them to use the 20% test and consider if they could make the station ADA-compliant without an undue burden. CTA got a $6M federal grant to improve Wilson accessibility in October 2011 – including an elevator. ( http://goo.gl/HZPbZ ). So how did the project grow to be $203 million, but the ADA-compliant stops grew not at all?

      It is almost as if CTA management / City Hall designed the Red Line North enhancements to fail the 20% ADA test. You can’t do that under the law. ADA-compliance is a civil right, not some BS aldermanic menu item.

      1. The CTA wants to do a really big Red Line project — specifically, reconstructing the elevateds, viaducts, and embankment, which are crumbling. (They weren’t maintained properly for roughly 80 years, and it’s really too late to fix with mere maintenance work now.) You can look this up on their website, it’s the “Red and Purple Line Modernization Project”.

        When that is done every station will need to be rebuilt. Every single one. The Wilson station is sort of a “down payment” on this — it *includes* the expensive viaduct work.

        The other “Red Line North enhancements” are just temporary patch-work to keep the stations from being magnets for personal-injury lawsuits — until the viaduct work is funded. That’s why the CTA is avoiding installing elevators, they expect to be replacing the stations entirely in a few years if they can find the money.

        1. I just read Ald. Harry Osterman in the paper calling the big RLN renovations “10 years off” per his sources at CTA. A person born with a disability in 1992, the year ADA was passed, will be 30 years old in 2022 when CTA thinks it is going to build an ADA-accessible Red Line North. Is that a record to crow about?

  4. Two things that should be investigated. One, is will there being bike parking and where will it be. If they have a big open station house like say Sox-35 with inside double-deck bike racks it could encourage a lot of biking by having an area in an already shady Uptown that would be somewhat secure to park your bike. My second question is about the dead space beneath the tracks along Broadway between Wilson and Clifton. The photos I see appear as though some of the empty storefronts will be torn down. I’m curious as to if this is just going to be surface area parking or are they going to try and do something with the area

    1. The Wilson Broadway Mall will be torn down and the platforms shifted to the west. This allows the existing platform to operate during construction. I’m curious to see what the plan is for the space beneath the new viaducts, though.

  5. I’m glad that this station is finally getting an upgrade. I’m also happy that the original station house is being preserved.

  6. I love it and it looks great. However, what will stop this station, given the neighborhood, from becoming tagged with crap from the gangbangers and stinking of urine from the drunks and the homeless again? The situation regarding gangs and the homeless needs to be addressed if the area is going to be prettied up..

    1. CTA stations used to have working restrooms but they were cut due to safety and budget issues. They should bring them back at Wilson Station, 24 hours a day. NYC has working restrooms in Port Authority Bus Station and Union Station and pays people to clean the restrooms. The restrooms are used by homeless people and wealthy commuters alike and it seems like a good use of public funds.

      There are literally hundreds of people living in shelters within a block or so of the Wilson Station. I’ve seen people peeing on Target, the Uptown Post Office, and underneath the Wilson L in the past week alone. If people have no money and no shelter and are out and about, they will pee anywhere if there are no public restrooms. We are talking about a population that often has multiple medical problems including incontinence.

      Providing better social services on the macro level and public restrooms at the micro level is how you fix the problem. Wishing away the pee isn’t going to work.

      1. When I was traveling in Germany this year, I asked where all the homeless people were. In their apartments, was the answer. Give homeless people homes. Sounds logical. (It’s probably a more nuanced situation than that, and one I should look into, but I understand that the social service safety net in Chicago is not very strong.)

        1. This is a problem with the United States. And honestly, it’s a problem which was solved under FDR (we instituted a welfare system and gave homeless people homes, leaving only a tiny number who *preferred* to be on the street) and which then came back with Reagan (who threw the mentally ill out onto the streets by defunding psych hospitals). Homelessness is an easily solvable problem, given public willingness to actually spend tax money on it. Most European countries provide a welfare system which guarantees a bedsit and enough to eat — along with universal medical care. They don’t guarantee much more, but it’s enough to “keep people off the street”.

  7. $203 million dollars is the latest figure for this station. I would love to know the breakdown for track improvements vs. station improvements. How can CTA/City of Chicago justify spending more on the Wilson Station (6,068 daily boardings in ’11) than Belmont Station (11,389 daily boardings in ’11). The contract to remodel BOTH Fullerton and Belmont (total daily boardings 25K+) was only $94.3M in 2005.

    1. Did you adjust the money for inflation?

      Consider the possibility that nicer stations has an effect on boardings at that station. Additionally, the station will become accessible, which could move rides from taxis, paratransit, and buses, to the station.

      1. It’s about $111.2M inflation adjusted dollars, for both Fullerton and Belmont Station.

        The $6 million dollar bus livability grant takes care of buses and transit integration with Wilson Station:

        Sen. Durbin’s website, 10/11/11: “Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Chicago: $6,000,000 in funding to make accessibility improvements at the Wilson Red Line Station which is served by four bus routes that together they provide direct service to 55,275 people. The project includes a new elevator control room and rail maintenance room, a new elevator inside the main station house at street level, as well as street modifications and exterior rehabilitation. This project was selected on a competitive basis through the 2011 Bus Livability Program.”

        My question is why that $6M grew to a huge figure and how much an expensive Wilson Station will take away from the accessibility and quality of the transit system for all communities given a finite set of dollars.

        The CTA’s mission is to “deliver quality, affordable transit services that link people, jobs and communities” – not do speculative economic development in Uptown.

        On a personal note, this is my prmary L-stop! I am student at Truman and I use Wilson all the time. I know that it needs improvement and reconstruction. I also know the entire system needs improvement and reconstruction and believe that CTA should take a systemic approach to their work, not hold ribbon-cutting ceremonies that celebrate boondoggles and the egos of politicians at the expense of transit riders citywide.

        1. I don’t think that a $6 million project grew into a $203 million project. The $6 million project was probably always seen as part of the $203 million project and the CTA is seeking funds where it can get them. If it needs funding from Bus Livability Program and whichever other programs, then it will seek those out.

        2. A lot of the cost here is viaduct / elevated structure work. The CTA hasn’t been able to find the funds to rebuild the North Line end-to-end (it’s still on their projects list) but they’re trying to rebuild the line in the area of Wilson station while they rebuild Wilson station.

          1. I’ll try to ask Thursday if CTA has a breakdown of costs, track work vs. station work. Unlike station improvements, track improvements are not subject to the ADA 20% rule.

  8. one thing to note is that these drawings seem inaccurate in that they omit the drunk hobos, gangbangers, urine and vomit. Id say just make the station as bare bones as possible because the people of the neighborhood will just tear it up anyway. like the old saying goes, “this is why we cant have nice things”

    1. Of course it was cheaper; that’s just a building.

      This involves railroad tracks on a viaduct. And the viaduct needs a lot of work.

      Most of the extra cost is actually in retrofitting the viaduct WHILE the trains are running.

      It could be done more cheaply by tearing down the viaduct and building a new one, but you’d have to sever the Red and Purple lines for a year… not so good. If there were a redundant, parallel rail line then the “shut it down and rebuild” option could be used. But guess what — there isn’t!

      Look at the prices for replacing the structural walls of a working building while people are working in the building and you begin to see what’s driving the price.

      1. I wonder how much maintaining the Gerber building under the tracks adds in costs to the construction? I’d be all for knocking the entire thing down and just tacking the facade back on your standard glass + steel modern CTA station. Just because something is old, doesn’t make it worth saving in the whole. The building has already been altered many times, including the facade.

        image via http://www.chicago-l.org/stations/wilson.html

      2. There is, though. The viaduct only carries three sets of tracks over Wilson and Broadway. The fourth track swings to the west of the station and it currently used for Purple Line Express trains. Can’t trains share that single track while work is being done on the viaduct, then switch to their proper tracks north of Wilson? It would certainly cause delays, but it also means that work can be done faster and cheaper. The Wilson station can certainly afford to close since Lawrence is so close and can be used as an alternative while work is bring done.

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