Wheaton Metra station still closed in the wake of November fire

 
 
Updated 1/2/2018 6:16 PM
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  • Portable warming shelters provide heat for Wheaton Metra commuters waiting for trains outside the downtown station that remains closed since a fire broke out in a storage room on the night before Thanksgiving.

      Portable warming shelters provide heat for Wheaton Metra commuters waiting for trains outside the downtown station that remains closed since a fire broke out in a storage room on the night before Thanksgiving. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Portable warming shelters are available for use on the south side of the downtown Wheaton train station, which remains closed due to a November fire.

      Portable warming shelters are available for use on the south side of the downtown Wheaton train station, which remains closed due to a November fire. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Wheaton officials are hoping to reopen portions of the downtown Metra station by the end of the month if insurance inspectors allow the city to make temporary fixes to the building that was damaged in a November fire.

Those inspectors could deliver a structural analysis to the city by the end of this week or early next to determine whether areas of the station can be occupied even temporarily.

The review was necessary because the accidental fire on the night before Thanksgiving damaged some of the station's load-bearing walls, City Manager Mike Dzugan said.

As soon as insurance companies give the green light, the city will install temporary heat and electricity to reopen the waiting room and ticket office to commuters.

"We're trying to do as much as we can to try to get that space open temporarily," Dzugan said Tuesday.

Trains continue to operate at the downtown Wheaton stop on the Union Pacific West Line. Some Metra riders have been waiting for trains in two portable warming shelters the transit agency set up on the inbound platform on the south side of the depot.

The city also will oversee permanent repairs to the fire-damaged building it leases from Union Pacific. Dzugan said it's too early to say when those renovations could begin. He also could not provide damage estimates.

The fire started in a storage and furnace room on the north side of the building at the southwest corner of Front and West streets. Firefighters were called shortly after 11 p.m. Nov. 22 and brought the blaze under control within minutes. A malfunctioning heating unit appeared to trigger the fire.

Dzugan said crews will likely put up a temporary wall between the waiting room and the building's north side, where most of the fire damage occurred.

Metra passengers can purchase tickets online at Metrarail.com/tickets, through the Ventra smartphone app or on board with cash.

Metra also encourages commuters in wheelchairs or scooters to use the College Avenue station at 303 N. President St. The warming shelters at the downtown station have a 2-inch lip at the entrances and may not be accessible for passengers who use mobility devices.

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