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Chicago Multimodal Terminal Crosses Major Highway

Aerial view rendering of the new terminal that will be built atop a bridge crossing the Dan Ryan Expressway, a busy section of Interstate 94
The new terminal will be built atop bridges crossing the Dan Ryan Expressway, a busy section of Interstate 94. © Chicago Transit Authority

The Chicago Transit Authority will soon begin a complex phased project to replace the important 95th Street Terminal on the city’s south side, building it above a busy freeway.

March 11, 2014—Design work continues and construction will begin this spring on a $240-million replacement for the 95th Street Terminal, a key multimodal transportation hub in south Chicago. The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) terminal is one of the busiest stations in the city, providing service to approximately 100,000 riders each week.

The current station was completed in 1969 and serves as a key hub for bus-to-bus and bus-to-rail connections. The terminal is hampered by a limited number of bus bays, which forces the buses to line up and wait during peak hours before they can load and unload passengers.

The new terminal will span the Dan Ryan Expressway, a key segment of Interstate 94 that is among the busiest highways in the United States. This presents significant engineering and construction challenges to a diverse team led by CTA and Parsons Brinkerhoff, of New York City. The team also includes a joint venture of Walsh Construction and II in One Contractors, Inc., both in Chicago, which is serving as the construction manager-at-risk.

“We are building the station over one of the busiest expressways in America. And the 95th Street Station is one of our busiest terminals,” says Chris Bushell, the chief infrastructure officer of the CTA. “The construction and logistics are impacted by those two factors. We will do a lot of work when we have minimal passenger loading, which will be overnight on weeknights and through the weekends.”

Bushell says the project will be constructed in phases to accommodate the logistical challenges. The current terminal will remain in service as a new bridge structure is built over the expressway to the south. Once the bridge structure is complete, a terminal structure will be built atop that.

“Once we get the foundations in, we don’t have a lot of impact on the expressway unless we are lifting structure directly over it—setting beams or other components,” Bushell says. “The quicker we can get to a secured bridge deck and start to build the building, the more efficiently we can start to use all the time that is available to us.” 

Interior rendering of the new terminal that will feature dramatic, arched open spaces with generous natural light

The new terminal will feature dramatic, arched open spaces with
generous natural light. © Chicago Transit Authority

When the south structure is complete, the team will carefully dismantle and remove the 1969 terminal to the north, construct a second bridge over the highway, and build a second terminal structure that will be linked to the newly completed south side structure.

“Fundamentally, we come close to doubling the area that we have there,” says Bushell. “On the north side, the public right-of-way is a little narrower. The logistics become keener. We have a relatively narrow area that we are bringing our service through, [from] out of the yard. The logistics have got be focused even more, so that we minimize the impact on the service.”

The team is developing three-dimensional computer models in building information modeling (BIM) software to better manage the complexities of the phased project on a tight site. “[BIM] offers some real advantages in terms of coordinating all the various elements that would go into a complex structure like this,” Bushell says. “It also enables us to study the logistics of the project in a three-dimensional space, rather than torture out some of the logistics in very complicated phasing documents. It allows us to take a look at how we would build it given [the] access that we have and both understand the strengths in our schedule as well as where the complexities could occur.”

The new terminal will feature expansive open spaces with high, diagonal grid ceilings. The CTA placed a high premium on making connections easier for passengers and otherwise maximizing the passenger experience.

“Beyond all the complicated, programmatic things that we needed to put in place, we wanted an important structure to the community,” Bushell says. “And we wanted something that was a gateway to people coming and going from the city. It’s not technically the first thing people see coming into the city, but it’s one of the first indications that you are approaching downtown Chicago. We wanted it to be a symbol of what Chicago can offer for all of its citizens.”

The emphasis on aesthetics led the CTA to commission an internationally recognized local artist, Theaster Gates, to create two permanent works of art for the terminal, works that will involve local students as well as other contributors.

The terminal project is part of larger modernization effort on the CTA’s critical Red Line. The CTA recently replaced of 10.2 mi of dual-track line to create a faster, smoother commute for passengers.

“We are investing where we have the heaviest service use,” Bushell explains. “The Red Line is a big priority for us.” The CTA has two additional significant Red Line projects in the planning stages, he adds.

Construction of the 95th Street Terminal begins this spring with utility relocation and early foundation work. “Design documents at the 60-percent stage contain [some] elements that are 100 percent finished,” Bushell says. The design of the structure is actually further along than the plans for the tracks, power, and signaling, he says. The terminal is tentatively slated to be completed in 2016.



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