The Daily Northwestern

CTA begins renovations of Howard El stop

Laura Olson

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After four years of delays, the Chicago Transit Authority is getting the Howard El station renovations back on schedule.

A major phase of the project, laying new rails, will begin this weekend. In three years, the station will become friendlier to disabled passengers and more inviting to the almost 6,000 people who use it every weekday.

To get to the platform now, passengers must walk past the barred windows of neighboring stores and up the stained, uneven stairs.

Many riders agree the renovation is just in time. Chicago resident Lisa Terry said the station brings one thing to her mind – the smell.

“It’s always smelling bad,” Terry said. “It could definitely use a little clean up.”

This spring, the CTA has been preparing to get rid of the smells and modernize the station during preliminary work on the $56.7-million renovation plan.

“Contractors have begun preliminary work such as obtaining permits, mobilizing work areas, site surveying and relocating utilities,” CTA spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said. “We are getting ready to begin some track replacements this weekend.”

The plan, which was approved in 2002 and contracted this January, involves renovating the Howard station, viaduct and surrounding retail space. New artwork will replace peeling paint. Security cameras will be nestled into the new platform canopies. The station also will comply with Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

“We needed to make it accessible to customers with disabilities, and it currently is not. When we are finished, it will be,” Ziegler said. “We also need to simply bring it into better repair.”

Ziegler said the focus of the work will be on a new entrance building off the south end of the platform, on North Paulina Street in Chicago.

The building also will connect the platforms to the bus terminal and parking garage.

Additionally, rider amenities will be improved, including new benches, signs and bike racks – but still no bathrooms.

The Howard station, built in 1920, has not been renovated since 1964, when the fare area was updated, Ziegler said.

Howard is one of several CTA stations now under construction. Stations on the Brown Line are expanding their train capacity, while another project includes the renovation of Red Line stations on the South Side of Chicago.

Much of the work has been and will continue to be done during off-peak hours, Ziegler said. When the track replacement begins this weekend, trains may be rerouted on different platforms or run on a slower schedule, but Red, Purple and Yellow Line trains will all continue to use the station.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2009, according to a CTA press release.

Chicago resident Kenan Legg, who uses the Howard station every day to commute to work, said he wasn’t aware the station was being renovated but wasn’t concerned about delays.

“I don’t think it will be too bad,” Legg said. “It could use some cleaning and it’s probably about time.”

Legg said the new entrance off North Paulina Street would be closer to his home and would be “really beneficial.”

Dan Marrero, an Evanston resident, said the Howard station appeared to be in OK shape compared to other stations along the Red Line and that the CTA should focus on other priorities, too.

“I’d rather they just keep fares low and my commute short,” Marrero said. “Life’s too short to spend it on the train.”

Reach Laura Olson at l-olson2@northwestern.edu.

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