The Jefferson Park Free Press
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January – February, 2010
Volume V News and Commentary Issue I
By Robert Bank
Six Corners Assoc’s Train Depot Plan Not So Fast-Tracked
The Six-Corners Association’s plan to close the Mayfair and Grayland Stations on the Milwaukee District North Metra Line (formerly the Milwaukee Road ), in order to open a new train station, with a depot at the MarketPlace at Six Corners (Jewel - Marshalls), faces many hurdles according to Amtrak and Metra spokesmen.
Michael Gillis, spokesman for Metra hasn’t seen or heard anything of the proposal other than inquiries from local newspapers, but he stated that it is very difficult to close a station, even with the promise of a new station further down the track, due to current station commuters who would likely find the move an inconvenience.
Opening a new station is no easy task either, if one looks for example, at the history of the 35th St. Metra Station near IIT and the White Sox’ U.S. Cellular Field. The Plan was first floated in 1988, as a way to ease Sox fans travel to old Comiskey Park during the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction. The Sox dropped the idea after the Metra board demanded the baseball organization pay for the construction of a temporary platform. Local politicians kept at it though, and after years of balking at the idea, the Metra board finally approved an $800,000 design for the new station. Finally, in June of 2009, a year behind schedule, Metra broke ground on the new station; it’s expected to be completed in the fall of this year, 22 years since first proposed. The project is largely being funded by an initial $4.9 million dollars in federal grants, as well as an additional $6.8 million in federal stimulus money.
Amtrak spokesman, Marc Magliari hasn’t heard of any request to open a new Amtrak station at Six Corners either, but confirmed that outside of Union Station, there are no other Amtrak stops within the City limits; the closest being Glenview, Summit, La Grange Rd. and Homewood. Mr. Magliari cited the three key elements of selecting a site for an Amtrak stop, these are:
1. Does it make good business sense?
2. Permission of the railroad track owners (in this case Metra)
3. Is there a facility (station).
Considering one can be at Union Station from the Mayfair Metra stop in 21 minutes, even sooner from Grayland, and connect directly to Amtrak trains in the same station, does it really make good business sense and good use of our tax-dollars to make the Amtrak to Milwaukee train come to a screeching halt just 10 minute after leaving Union Station, and just after getting up to a speed of 60 mph? Time schedule changes could come in to play too, for not only the Metra Milwaukee District North Line that shares the same track, but also the Union Pacific’s track which crosses just north of Mayfair. The Union Pacific’s track also carries the Metra Northwest Line from Jefferson Park and beyond, into the Ogilvie Metra Station, downtown.
City of Chicago’s Department of Community Development’s (formerly the Department of Planning and Development) spokeswoman, Molly Sullivan confirmed that the Six Corner Association has asked the Department to put together a plan for the 6-Corners shopping corridor, but had no specific details of the proposal request, nor of the Metra/Amtrak component. Ms. Sullivan expects the planning process to start in approximately 60 days. Inside sources indicate that the Department of Community Development will likely suggest that the Six-Corners Association pursue their Metra/Amtrak ambitions seperately, as the station would not likely add significant business to the shopping district.
Lost Mayfair and Other Ghosts from the Past
Once upon a time there were two Mayfair train stations, the Milwaukee Road’s that still survives today, and the Chicago and North Western’s (C & N.W.), just a half block east. Although long since sealed off; you can still make out the old arched entryway and windows built into the underpass of the long abandoned station. It’s on the south side of Montrose next to the Kennedy expressway entrance ramp. A spur off of Mayfair headed north, and then split into an East leg, with a stop at Peterson, before heading to the Weber train yard in Evanston, and a West leg, with stops at Sauganash, Lincolnwood and finally Skokie. Today, a portion of the West leg has been designated the “Sauganash Bike Trail” but it goes a mere 1.5 miles; a very short bike trail to no-where. The East leg remains abandoned. It seems like a lost opportunity not to have some sort of light rail that could bring commuters down this old rail path, where they could transfer to the Metra at Mayfair; and why not continue the bike trail, fenced off right along side the train right of way. Below is a diagram of the C&NW, now Metra North-West line, and the stations closed December of 1958.
Click here for map of C & NW R.R. (Wisc. Division and Skokie Line) station closings 12-1-1958:
Citing $2,100,000 in losses for 1956, in its commuter operations, the C & N.W. successfully petitioned the Illinois Commerce Commission (I.C.C.) to close 22 city stations, and increase fares 24%. In exchange for the fare hike and station closings, the railroad promised to introduce an unlimited monthly fare card as the basis for its fare structure, and “place as quickly as possible,” a $5,600,000 order for 86 double-deck air-conditioned cars. Then C & N.W. Chairman, Ben C. Heineman declared the approval, “A giant contribution toward the preservation of Chicago’s suburban transportation system.”
Source: Chicago Tribune archives