One of the most public L stations in Chicago is next in line for Extreme Makeover: Transit Edition.
The CTA’s State/Lake station hangs over its eponymous street intersection, and is frequently seen in television shows, movies, and discount wedding photographs.
If you’ve ever alighted here, you know the platform is way too narrow, even for the most waifish of supermodels. It’s worse when you’re coming in from Midway Airport dragging a wake of splinters in the decking from a suitcase full of dirty Dockers after a fortnight in a hotel without proper laundry service. (Protip: Wheel the whole suitcase into the nearest dry cleaning shop and just walk away. Call in the morning to sort things out.)
The current State/Lake station is 126 years old. In the days before black death ate the tourism industry, it helped 3,700,000 people a year find their ways on to and off of the CTA Brown, Green (both kinds), Orange, Pink, and Purple lines.
The new $180,000,000 station — designed by Kansas City’s TranSystems, and New York’s SOM — looks like someone built a space ship out of the front grille of a 2020 Lexus ES 350. It’s a bulbous glass tortoise shell that envelops the station, protecting passengers from the elements. An excellent idea, since even though this station is a few blocks from Lake Michigan, it still gets a heckuvalota wind. And with it, the snow, sleet, and snert (snow+dirt) that blows through town in the winter.
Currently, the most glaring issue at the station is the fact that it’s directly above the CTA’s Red Line subway, but there is no direct connection between the two. If this project was going to fix that major malfunction, we’d expect everyone from the CTA to the Mayor’s office to the former Saint Floarian High School marching band to be tooting horns over fixing the 78-year-old mistake. Instead, we are told that the connection between the Red Line below and the five guys above will be “improved.” Until we see some specifics, we interpret this to mean “We kicked the can down the road another few decades.”
Tourists will dig the new station because there’s going to be something of an observation platform on the north and south ends, affording narcissists the opportunity to feed the ‘Gram in front of the Chicago Theater marquee, lest they whither and die from a lack of attention from complete strangers.
But don’t break out your cheki and duck face just yet. Because an enormous number of the Benjamins that will pay for this project are your federal tax dollars, there’s a trainload of paperwork, and studies, and reviews, and more studies, and stakeholder sessions, and lawyers, lawyer, lawyers still to come. If all goes well, construction will start right around the time the word “corona” once again means “beer ’em,” and not “serum.”