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Union Station Set For $12M Renovation

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The iconic 90-year-old Union Station is about to get a $12 million facelift, including upgrades to frequently crowded concourses, and improved temperature controls to avoid burst pipes that twice flooded the rail terminal this month.

Amtrak, which owns the station, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel were set to announce plans to reconfigure the south concourse, in an effort to cut back on overcrowding that is often the result of train delays at Union Station.

The concourse was last reconfigured in 1991, and far more people use the station now than 24 years ago, according to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

"Amtrak ridership and Metra ridership have grown quite a bit since 1991, and we've basically outgrown that design," Magliari said. "We've outgrown the waiting room space there. There simply isn't enough space to queue all the passengers for Amtrak trains, and to manage some of the traffic flow for Metra trains. So, in the end, there'll be a very different-looking concourse."


As part of the overhaul, Amtrak also plans to add new doors to better control temperatures in winter, and protect the station's sprinkler system, which froze twice this month, flooding the busy south concourse.

"The door systems that are in the building now – between the street and the Union Station, or the tracks in Union Station – were installed back in 1991, and there's been progress in design; both in energy control and in just door systems themselves," Magliari said.

Additionally, the worn marble steps leading to the historic Great Hall will be replaced, if funding permits, and repairs will be made to the building's aging façade.

"The stairs that lead between the Great Hall and Canal Street were used in the movie 'The Untouchables.' Every day, people I see there are taking pictures of those steps," Magliari said.

Magliari said there's no word yet how long the renovations will take, but by next winter, passengers should feel more comfortable inside the station.

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