The proposed project would use federal funds to improve passenger flow and ventilation at Union Station, among other initiatives. Credit: Amtrak

DOWNTOWN — Union Station, one of Downtown’s main transportation hubs, needs major renovations that local leaders hope to partially fund with $250 million in federal cash.

At a Thursday press conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and U.S Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia urged federal leaders to approve the funding. The money would come from the Biden administration’s $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill.

Station renovations are estimated to cost about $418 million. The plan includes removing walls in the concourse to improve traffic flow, adding express escalators from the concourse to the street level, widening platforms to reduce overcrowding and more upgrades. Amtrak is covering 20 percent of the cost and the state is covering another 20 percent.

Other related work would add rail service from O’Hare Airport to McCormick Place, add a double track from Niles to Glenwood, Mich. and add a station platform in Joliet, which Lightfoot called a tremendous opportunity for the city.

“I’m not shy in bending the ear of U.S. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who comes to Chicago frequently, to say this project is critically important for the future of transportation,” Lightfoot said. “I call on the federal government to help us realize this bold vision once and for all by granting our application.”

Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said the potential grant money would be a game changer for the station, which opened in 1925.

“We now have an opportunity to take a step in a whole different order, to go past the incremental improvements we’ve been making to really change fundamentally the capability of this station,” Gardner said.

Durbin said he believes the federal funding for the renovations is “near the finish line.”

“There’s a lot of money coming out of Washington and if you’re organized, got a plan [and a] credible approach. We think we have a solid position. … We’re near the finish line with an announcement coming very soon,” Durbin said.

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