Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and Metra officials touted the benefits of the Ravenswood Metra Station makeover Wednesday, but Pawar said parking for commuters remains an issue.
Pawar grabbed a shovel along with a half dozen state and Metra officials signaling the official kickoff of renovations at the station, located at 4800 North Ravenswood Avenue.
Once completed in 2015, the new, $18.3 million project will alleviate the station’s commuter congestion and will encourage area residents to use public transportation, said Larry Huggins, acting chairman for the Metra Board of Directors.
Construction plans include new rail tracks and wider platforms. Fully lit ramps and stairs are planned to increase safety.
But Pawar said the plan lacks one important element: parking spots. He said that officials cannot locate a proper lot for the spots.
“I wasn’t going to hold off supporting the project just for 50 to 60 parking spots,” the alderman said.
Mario Sovlna, a daily Ravenswood Station commuter, said the lack of parking won’t cause a problem because most commuters walk to the station, including himself.
But John Parker, another frequent commuter and walker, thought differently.
“I don’t have a car, which is why I use the station, but I know a lot of people that would appreciate parking here,” Parker said.
Pawar said commuters can use the public parking spaces scattered throughout Ravenswood.
The project’s proposed new amenities include two warming shelters and a ticket office. Redeveloped ramps and stairs will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Metra.
Parker said he is most excited for the warming shelters.
“The (current) shelters don’t do much when there’s bad weather,” Parker said. “It gets really crowded under those.”
Temporary platforms will be built for each side of the tracks to accommodate commuters during construction, said Metra spokesman Michael Gillis. He added that half of the new tracks will be complete by 2013, while the other half will be finished in late 2015.
The project for the deteriorating station has been considered “for decades,” Pawar said, but Metra did not have the funds.
In 2009, Metra was granted funds to fully support the project through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, intended to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
The station is one element of a $215 million federally funded project to replace 11 bridges throughout 22 streets on the North Side of Chicago, Gillis said. Construction on the bridges began in fall of 2011.
Commercial, residential and streetscape construction are also planned for the area across the street and next door to the station by private developers, Pawar said. These projects will cost a combined total of $73 million, he said.
Mariano’s—a grocery store—and LA Fitness are planned to open next year on Lawrence Avenue, Pawar said. This building and a new, 150-unit residential structure will hold separate parking lots.
Gillis said the community has not given Metra any feedback regarding the Ravenswood Station project.
Pawar said community feedback was not needed to consider the project in the first place. “You don’t wait for community complaints to deal with a problem in infrastructure.”