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Union Station to undergo renovations

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Every day, up to 130,000 people travel through Union Station and that's why Thursday?s announcement that the federal government will help Chicago is so critical. (WLS)

Union Station is a bustling train hub in Chicago. Every day, up to 130,000 people travel through the station-that's the same amount as Midway Airport. And that's why Thursday's announcement that the federal government will help Chicago is so critical.

If you use Union Station, you know it's a challenge.

"It can be confusing, especially this part we're in," Danielle Kirincich, a Park Ridge resident, said.

One area is called the track level. It looks open now, but when you cram thousands of people here during rush hour, you need a little breathing room.

"I just think more space, yeah, you can read the signs but it's all pretty crammed, so it's hard to tell where to go," Kirincich said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to help Chicago seek up to $1 billion of federal funding to redevelop the station.

"Today's announcement is a pathway forward, a pathway to funding. And a pathway to get technical support from the United States Department of Transportation so we can move forward," Ray Lang, Amtrack senior director, said.

That announcement came Thursday, even though President-elect Donald Trump takes over next week.

"Yes, there is no way I can say you're going to do this, but he did put infrastructure and transportation at the top of his list," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

A developer will be selected during the spring. Changes will include redesigning the entire track level. Counters have already closed to give commuters more space. The platforms will be widened and signage will improve as well.

A secondary part of the plan is having more stores and businesses.

"When you have more retail, more business, more taxes and all that good stuff, I think it'll be a great idea. I'm all for it," Ira Solomon, a Metra commuter, said.

Union Station underwent a renovation back in 1991. Since then, however, ridership has doubled. So now that the agreement is in place, the focus will be on getting the funding in hand.

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