AUBURN GRESHAM — After nearly 16 years, efforts to bring a Metra stop to Auburn Gresham are finally coming to fruition.
Local officials broke ground Wednesday at the long awaited Auburn Park Metra station at 79th Street and Lowe Avenue.
The $35 million train station just south of 79th will run along the Rock Island line going north to the Loop or south into the southwest suburbs. The other station in the area is at 87th Street.
Officials said the construction could be complete as soon as 2024.
The station will be ADA-accessible and have a plaza with bicycle racks, an 84-space parking lot with a kiss-n-ride drop-off area, a vendor building with glass storefronts, and a 480-foot-long platform with two shelters. A chemical-free snow melt system will keep the platform clear during the winter months.
Sen. Jacqueline Collins, one of the local leaders to spearhead the project, said the project is “the culmination of 16 years of lobbying, fighting, and advocating for state capital funds.”
Collins secured $30 million in state funding for the station. Previous plans for the stop were delayed in 2015 when state funds reserved for the depot were frozen.
Along with the 79th Street bus line, the Metra stop will connect the neighborhood to other communities around the city, Collins said.
“Today’s announcement is about redressing historical imbalances and doing right by an underserved community in an untapped market,” Collins said. “… The people of Auburn Gresham and adjoining communities deserve this opportunity, and the people of Chicago deserve a public transit network that knits our city together, enables movement and growth and leaves no one behind.”
Years from now, people will view investment in the station as “a turning point in the renewal of South Side neighborhoods,” she said.
Gov. JB Pritzker, speaking over protesters with Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change, said Auburn Park was made possible through the Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan.
The recently signed state bill dedicates $45 billion in investments to transportation modes over the next six years. Metra received $1.3 billion, “opening the door for transformational projects like this one,” he said.
“This new station promises to improve access to transportation at jobs throughout the region, support economic development and opportunities in the neighborhood, and contribute to the overall health of the community,” Pritzker said. “Crucially, it’s fully accessible to all who live here, disability or not.”
The station will be within blocks of two major developments coming to 79th.
A $40 million affordable housing development at 838-58 W. 79th St. and 757 W. 79th St. is moving forward as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative. A healthy lifestyle hub operated by the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, will be across the street.
“Auburn Gresham is on the move,” said Carlos Nelson, executive director of the development group. “Get on board right here at the Auburn Park station.”
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