Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting ready for his first big ask from President-elect Donald Trump: a low-interest federal loan of up to $1 billion to modernize and expand Chicago's Union Station.
The Union Station project, part of a larger plan to attract private development on air rights over and near the historic rail station, has been one of the mayor's top priorities. He's repeatedly traveled to Washington, and key members of Congress, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and former Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), pushed legislation to ensure that the project would qualify for a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan.
The federal loan could fund projects including renovation of the Great Hall skylight and dome, renovation and expansion of station entrances, widening of platforms, reconstruction of Canal Street and Harrison Street viaducts, and construction of pedestrian tunnels to the nearby Ogilvie Transportation Center and Blue Line stop at Clinton.
Union Station handles more than 300 trains and 120,000 passengers on a typical workday, making it as busy as some of the nation's largest airports.
Today's news was the second transit gift of sorts that Emanuel got in recent days from Obama, who made Emanuel his first chief of staff. The other was approval of nearly $1.1 billion in federal grants to rebuild a key stretch of the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line north and build flyover separating Red Line and Brown Line tracks.
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