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O'Hare needs a modern train station!

February 04, 2019

Have you seen the latest on the O'Hare expansion and modernization project? Newly released architectural renderings for each of five proposals show impressive plans for the new O'Hare Global Terminal and Concourse, the centerpiece of the City's plan.

Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune argues that the Foster + Partners design (pictured right), evokes the great railroad stations of the past. He notes that it provides a space where customers will actually enjoy their time waiting to depart, rather than sitting in a holding pen before being shepherded onto a plane.

Foster + Partners is also leading the design of Florence, Italy's Bellafiore station, the city's newest high-speed train station set to be completed in 2021. Much like the firm's O'Hare plans, this station design focuses on passengers, emphasizing open space and visibility. As can be seen from the rendering pictured right, train platforms are set about 25 meters below ground level, with the rest of the station rising above them.

Kamin's comparison is a not so subtle reminder that Chicago's Union Station redevelopment plan is rather uninspired and appears to have stalled. But, we're hopeful that with Rep. Lipinski as Chair of the House Railroad Subcommittee, we will see some meaningful progress.

The airport expansion will provide a boost to the region and is a positive infrastructure investment. However, there is a glaring omission in the current plans. There has been no planning for a railroad station.  They should prepare for express trains from downtown, commuter trains from the suburbs and high-speed trains from surrounding cities. This will not only help with connectivity, but will also help deal with increased traffic to the airport that will inevitably follow the expansion.

We have some ideas on how to accomplish this.  You can check them out here.