University commuters to see Metra, Lake Shore Drive changesBy Peter Schuler
Improvements on nearby Metra stations, heavily used by members of the University community, will be completed by Summer 2002, while an extensive reconstruction program for South Lake Shore Drive will continue through 2003.
Metra spokesman Dan Schnolis said the first phase of improvements on the Metra station at 55th, 56th and 57th streets will be completed by the end of the year. This work will include creating a handicapped-accessible entrance to the platform at 57th Street with the installation of an elevator. By spring 2002, a 600-foot steel and concrete platform will replace the existing 400-foot wooden platform, and a new canopy to protect waiting passengers from the elements will have been installed. The station also will have a new ticket vending area.
Upgrades scheduled for completion by early summer 2002 will be made to the Metra station at 53rd Street, where the wooden platform also will be replaced with a steel and concrete platform.
The 59th Street/University Station is not part of the current upgrade program. In summer 2002, when renovations at the 55th, 56th and 57th street stations are completed, the transfer point for Metra trains will be moved from 59th Street to the station two blocks north.
Other transportation routes traveled by University commuters also are under construction.
The Illinois and Chicago Departments of Transportation are rebuilding more than six miles of South Lake Shore Drive from 23rd to 67th streets in a three-year, $162 million project funded by the city of Chicago, the state of Illinois and the Federal Highway Administration.
With 100,000 daily users and its location next to Lake Michigan, South Lake Shore Drive experiences tremendous wear and tear each year.
Robert Mason, Executive Director of the South East Chicago Commission, a community organization for the Hyde Park and South Kenwood neighborhoods, said the construction is very inconvenient but very necessary, and it represents the most significant improvement in Lake Shore Drive in recent memory. The major reason is safety. Weve had many tragic accidents, often fatal, and numerous head-on collisions, he explained.
IDOT and CDOT have held community meetings throughout the neighborhoods that are being affected by the construction. Mason said the project will include the installation of median barriers needed because South Lake Shore Drive is a heavily traveled highwayU.S. Route 41.
The South Lake Shore Drive project also will include the installation of a new sewage system so salt, oil and water do not run off into Lake Michigan.