JOLIET – Commuters now can see the shell of the train station that is expected to open before the end of next winter.
“Precast concrete gives us instant gratification,” Lisa Dorothy said. “Two weeks ago I had nothing. Today, I have two stories.”
It’s still two stories that need to be filled in and built out before the 11,000-square-foot station is completed.
But Dorothy, the city of Joliet’s project manager for the job, led a tour Thursday of the construction site to provide what was the best glimpse yet into the station.
“This is actually a two-story open portico,” Dorothy said, as the tour began in the future entrance to the station.
The station lobby to the side will have “a lot of light and a lot of open floor plan,” she said.
The four walls of the station can be seen diagonally across from Slammers’ stadium, located on the south side of Jefferson Street and on the east side of the railroad tracks.
It’s still a messy construction site in many ways. But the station, which has been in the works since 2010, is taking shape in ways that no longer require just imagination.
All four corners at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Mayor Art Schultz Drive have something going on. In addition to the train station and Slammers’ stadium, a 680-foot-long platform for Metra commuters on the Heritage Corridor line is being built.
The sheltered platform for Metra’s Rock Island line has been in place since September 2014, just to the east of the station.
Bridge and tunnels
But some things still are left to the imagination.
A bridge, yet to be built, will connect the Rock Island platform to the train station.
Underground tunnels will connect commuters to the Heritage Corridor platform. The tunnels will pop up into two sheltered areas enclosed by glass on either side of the platform equipped with a canopy shelter.
The station will include Metra and Amtrak ticket offices and two waiting areas – one on the first floor and “a bigger one upstairs,” Dorothy said. The lobby could include a coffee shop.
An elevator will take commuters to the second floor, which will be at the same level as the boarding platforms.
The station also will have a stainless steel staircase and terrazzo tile floors, said Bob Tansey, project manager for Walsh Construction, the general contractor on the project.
Both Tansey and Dorothy talked about the challenges of construction alongside an active railroad line.
An earth retention system was put in place to protect construction from the impact of the passing trains, Tansey said.
“Because of the forces from the trains, the skeleton is extensive,” Tansey said. “You dig down 6 feet. You put it the first level. Then, you would come back and dig 6 more feet. You put in another level and dig some more until you get to the last level.”
There is no firm opening date, but Dorothy said the city expects commuters to be using the new train station before the end of winter, which could be early 2018.
Sitting on a bench at the Rock Island platform and waiting for a Metra train, Edward Ojeda of Joliet said he’s been taking the train regularly for seven years. He’s been watching the progress of the new station.
“It’s going to get done, and it’s going to be nice,” Ojeda said. “A lot of people like me are going to benefit from it.”
The entire transportation center, which has included a realignment of railroad tracks, was initiated in 2010 when Gov. Pat Quinn announced a $30 million state grant to support what was to be a $42 million project that included a bus station.
The project budget now is at $50 million but is about $4 million short of the money needed to build the bus station. The train station project, which includes the new Heritage Corridor boarding platforms, now is at $16.5 million, up $500,000 because of change orders since the contract was awarded.