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Now boarding: Milwaukee train station reconstruction

Construction on the new Milwaukee Intermodal Station passenger concourse is expected to start by the end of March. (Rendering courtesy of WisDOT)

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The Milwaukee Intermodal Station passenger concourse reconstruction will be let for construction in February with plans to start the project by the end of March.

John Oimoen, the state Department of Transportation’s passenger rail program chief, said the project is supposed to take 12 to 14 months to complete and will modernize and upgrade the concourse to meet federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

“The whole facility will be rebuilt, but the specific components – new platforms, escalators from different platform to different platform — all the people moving will be done with the escalators and elevators,” he said.

The project, originally estimated to cost $20.4 million – a figure Oimoen said now likely won’t be approached – will include a roof replacement as well.

“It’s a truss roof system being put in place there,” he said. “With the roof decking there will be some slots put in there. The object here is to use the natural light we got as much as possible.”

Both Oimoen and Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman, said the station’s train schedule should remain the same during construction.

“We don’t plan a service suspension, for example truncating the train at the airport,” Magliari said. “At least not at this point.”

There are two passenger rail routes managed by Amtrak that board at the station. The Hiawatha line, which connects Milwaukee to Chicago, sends seven trains in and out of the boarding area on most days, while the Empire Builder, which connects passengers to the west coast, has one train coming in and out of the station every day. The company also operates trains to General Mitchell International Airport.

Also, during a 24-hour period, Canadian Pacific Railroad has about 20 freight trains move through the station, said spokesman Ed Greenberg.

Contractors will need to work around rail passengers during construction at the Milwaukee station, Oimoen said. From September 2010 to September 2011, 617,800 passengers traveled through the station, an increase of nearly 30,000 people over the previous year, according to Amtrak.

“From a service standpoint the passengers will notice all the construction,” Oimoen said. “It’s something that our construction engineers on the team will need to monitor to make sure we have safe passages for people to get on and off the train.”

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