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This week, WGN’s Sarah Jindra is talking to the region’s top transportation officials about the slowdowns commuters can expect on the roads and rails this summer and beyond. In Friday’s piece, she sits down with Don Orseno, CEO of Metra.

Here’s a look at the major projects to watch for:


Improvements are planned for 29 of Metra’s 241 stations this year, including five stations along the BNSF Line to Aurora. Workers will rebuild the stairs at the Harlem Avenue Station and the platform at the Western Springs Station. Work will also begin this year on a project to restore the historic clay tile roof on the Riverside Station. The village of Riverside received a $600,000 Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) grant for the project which has an estimated cost of $947,000. Metra and the village will split the remaining cost, with Metra contributing $173,500. Also in 2017, the pedestrian crossing at the Clarendon Hills Station will be resurfaced.  Air conditioning will be installed in the station building at Lisle, and a ventilation system will be installed in the pedestrian tunnel.

On the Heritage Corridor Line, Metra plans to begin construction of a new station in Romeoville and is contributing to the costs of replacing furnaces and condensing units at the Lockport Station.

Along the Metra Electric Line, the McCormick Place Station will receive upgrades to the platform, waiting areas, signage and lighting. A $5.5 million project that started in 2016 to replace platforms, the elevator, stairs and other facilities at the Calumet Station will continue, and a $4.8 million project to replace the street-level depot, stairways and the north platform at the Hazel Crest Station will get underway. The Hazel Crest project also calls for the addition of an elevator on the north end of the station and platform repairs. Metra workers will also finish rehabilitation and repair work started in 2016 at the Kensington/115th Street, West Pullman and Millennium stations. Rehabilitation work will start this year at the 27th Street, 147th Street, Riverdale, Harvey and University Park stations. Projects may include repair or replacement of station elements such as platform deck boards, warming houses, staircases and lighting.

On the Milwaukee North Line, construction is set to begin on a $1.2 million project to add a 68-space parking lot at the Grayland Station and on a $7.3 million project to replace and upgrade the Healy Station. The village of Northbrook will begin a $325,000 station makeover project, with new roof shingles, new windows, doors and floors and repairs to the concrete around the station. The villages of Golf, Deerfield and Glenview will also oversee smaller maintenance projects at four stations (Golf, Deerfield, Glenview and North Glenview). Metra crews will make platform repairs at the Lake Cook Road Station and replace the tactile edging and extend the platforms at the Lake Forest Station.

On the UP North Line, the outbound platform will be replaced at the Kenilworth Station and the station flooring will be replaced at the Glencoe Station. The city of Lake Forest also plans to complete a comprehensive restoration of the station facility, started in 2016, this year.

On the UP West Line, the Winfield Station will undergo platform repair work.


Metra and its railroad partners plan to replace approximately 57,000 railroad ties this year as part of the following track improvement projects:

BNSF will replace about 8,000 ties on one of its main tracks between Lisle and Aurora. In addition, BNSF will replace switches and switch heaters in Cicero and Naperville. Platform ties will be replaced at the Hinsdale, Brookfield, Fairview Avenue and Stone Avenue stations. Workers will replace rail on track curves located just east of Chicago Union Station.

Metra will replace 10,000 ties from Randall Road in Elgin to Schaumburg on the Milwaukee West Line. This project is set to start on April 15.

On the Metra Electric Line, Metra forces will replace 11,000 ties from 121st Street to University Park. The work is scheduled to begin in late July. Metra will also make various track repairs in Metra-controlled rail yards throughout the system. Work in the yards will begin in the fall.

On the UP Northwest Line, UP forces will replace six diamond crossovers at the Deval interlocking between the Des Plaines and Cumberland stations. The work is planned to take place over a three-day period beginning April 27.

On the UP West Line, about eight miles of third track will be added along the only two remaining double-track segments. The third track will be constructed through two separate projects that together will cost more than $100 million. The first project includes construction of 1.8 miles of new track from the Vale interlocking in River Forest (just east of the Des Plaines River) to 25th Avenue in Melrose Park. The second project includes construction of 6.1 miles of new track from Kress Road in West Chicago to Peck Road in Geneva. Construction on both projects is expected to begin in 2017 and continue through 2019. Project funding will be provided by Union Pacific and Metra. UP will also replace up to 8,000 ties across its three lines as part of its general maintenance program.


Improvements are planned for 21 bridges across the Metra system and include projects on the BNSF, Milwaukee West, Rock Island, UP North and UP Northwest lines.

BNSF will replace panels on the Route 59 bridge deck in Naperville and bridge clips at four locations between Albany Avenue and Cermak Road in Chicago.

Construction is planned to begin in the fall along the Milwaukee West Line on a $34 million project to replace a 130-year-old single-track bridge over the Fox River in Elgin with a double-track bridge. A portion of the project is being funded through a $14 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. The remainder of the funding is being provided by Metra and Canadian Pacific.

Along the Rock Island Line, Metra will rehabilitate the bridges at 37th and 39th streets. At 51st Street, Metra will remove six bays of an existing steel bridge, repair three bays of the same bridge and build a new concrete access road bridge. The bridge at 57th Street will be removed and replaced with a new concrete access road bridge.

On the UP North Line, Metra will begin the next phase of a project to replace bridges on the North Side of Chicago. This phase includes 11 bridges for the inbound tracks over Grace, Irving Park, Berteau, Montrose, Sunnyside, Wilson, Leland, Lawrence, Winnemac, Foster and Balmoral. As part of this $45 million project, the new inbound half of the Ravenswood Station will be built. Work is expected to begin in late summer and continue for 30 months. The Deering Bridge, which crosses the north branch of the Chicago River north of the Clybourn Station on the UP North Line, will also undergo rehabilitation as part of a $19.8 million project.


Metra and its railroad partners plan to make improvements to 29 road crossings systemwide in 2017, including:

BNSF will replace crossings at Ashland Avenue in LaGrange, Main Street in Downers Grove and Oak Park Avenue in Berwyn.

On the Metra Electric Line, crossings will be replaced at Stony Island Avenue, 70thStreet, Yates Avenue, 87th Street and 91st Street on the South Chicago branch line. The Union Street crossing on the Blue Island branch line will also be replaced.

Metra will replace crossings at Wilson Road in Long Lake, Grand Avenue in Fox Lake and Oakton Street in Morton Grove along the Milwaukee North Line.

Grand Avenue in Elmwood Park, Scott Street in Franklin Park, Naperville Road in Bartlett and St. Charles Street in Elgin will also have the crossings replaced on the Milwaukee West Line.

On the Rock Island Line, crossings will be replaced at 99th and 102nd streets in Chicago, 167th Street in Oak Forest and Wolf Road in Mokena on the mainline and at 111th Street in Chicago on the Beverly branch line.

Crossings at 95th Street and 52nd Avenue in Oak Lawn and 135th Street and Wolf Road in Orland Park will be replaced on the SouthWest Service Line.

Replacement work will also be performed on the UP Northwest Line at Dunton Avenue in Arlington Heights, Baldwin Road in Inverness and Pearson Street in Des Plaines.


As railroads across the U.S. prepare for the federally mandated implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) safety systems, Metra crews are actively upgrading signal and communications systems on each of the lines it controls for compatibility with PTC. Similar work is also being performed across the lines controlled and operated by our freight partners.

Metra’s planned signal and communications infrastructure work for 2017 includes:

  • Metra Electric Line – Continue work on a $9.3 million project to upgrade the signal system at the 11th Place interlocking.
  • Milwaukee North Line – Begin a $13 million project to install a new signal system along 17.7 miles of track between Rondout and Fox Lake, including the construction of six new control points.
  • Milwaukee West Line– Begin a $6 million project to install a new interlocking in Elgin as part of the Fox River Bridge replacement project.
  • Rock Island Line – Continue a $14.75 million upgrade to the signal systems at four interlocking plants as well as signal systems at three road crossings in Blue Island.
  • SouthWest Service Line – Upgrade the signal system at an interlocking near 74thStreet in Chicago at an estimated cost of $1 million.

Most work will be performed during off-peak hours and on weekends. Metra will issue construction schedules for its trains during some of these projects. Construction schedules are issued when workers need to be on or very near the tracks, requiring trains to reduce speed or stop before proceeding through the construction zone. These schedules, in general, can add 10 to 15 minutes to the length of a trip. When construction schedules are in place, the modified schedules are reflected in Metra’s web-based Rail-Time Tracker and Schedule Finder and in the Ventra App’s Transit Tracker feature. The construction schedules will be posted here.