Skokie celebrates Oakton CTA station in grand style
Sunday's bike parade down the new bike path in downtown Skokie featured decorated bicycles celebrating the new nearby Yellow Line CTA station. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
DOWNTOWN SKOKIE STATION
Opened: April 30
Location: Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard
Cost: More than $20 million
Village portion: Less than $7 million
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:36AM
Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen had to stop his talk a couple of times Sunday afternoon because of the loud noise generated by a Yellow Line CTA train rumbling along.
He was happy to do so. These were interruptions 10 years in the making.
That’s how long the mayor and others had been advocating for a downtown Skokie Yellow Line station, a dream that was fulfilled April 30 when the new Oakton-Skokie station opened for the first time.
The village’s celebration was held in grand fashion on Sunday’s steamy afternoon. A family event also attended by dignitaries and village officials, it drew about 200 people who joined in the rejoicing over the new stop.
The station is a major factor in Skokie’s revitalization plans for downtown. Leaders are confident the station will bring more people to and from downtown Skokie, which could draw in more business. The nearby Illinois Science + Technology Park will also benefit, not only in bringing in new tenants, officials say, but also in providing employees with more transportation options.
“The feedback I’ve been getting so far is what a convenience this is for a lot of people,” the mayor said.
But it’s still difficult to assess the impact the new station is having on ridership until some time goes by. With only two months of operation, assessment of the train station is more anecdotal than stat-driven.
“It’s going to take at least a year to build ridership up,” the mayor said. “Our experience with the station up north (at Dempster Street) is that when we reconfigured it, we lost half the ridership and it took us a year to get that ridership back. And since then, we increased ridership but it did take time.”
The project cost $20 million, but most of it was obtained through outside sources including federal funding for the station design acquired with help from U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-9th.
“This small station wasn’t a small feat,” Schakowsky said.
She defended the earmark she won for the station, stating that federal government has an important role to play in making resources available for important projects.
“This project is yet another example that the federal government can encourage job creation and boost economic activity while providing safe, clean, reliable transportation options,” she said.
Schakowsky said the station will play a key role in the revitalization of downtown Skokie, serve as a “magnet” for pedestrian traffic, and will attract tenants to the science park.
“It has the potential to position Skokie as the hub for biotech, advance manufacturing and nanotechnology,” Schakowsky said.
Appearing at Sunday’s celebration were also State Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-8th; State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, D-9th; State Rep. Daniel Biss, D-17th; and State Rep. Lou Lang, D-16th; all of them helped move the project forward at various times.
The Skokie Village Board as well as leaders in many village departments, and representatives of different agencies were also on hand. A CTA representative spoke as well.
The day was devoted to transportation to be sure, but not just by rail. It began with a bike parade featuring a couple dozen children riding on the new downtown bike trail that runs from Oakton to Dempster near the tracks.
Children decorated their bicycles in celebration of the new Yellow Line station. The three riders with the best decorated bikes won prizes.
Sunday also saw the unveiling of a new sculpture for the station, a 34-foot kinetic piece that moves by power and wind. Artist Evan Lewis’ sculpture, Everreal, is located at Skokie Boulevard and Searle Parkway near the new train facility.
But for the many children in attendance Sunday, there may have been an even greater attraction. The Illinois Science + Technology Park handed out free Oberweis Dairy ice cream, causing a winding line within the station lot.