Architect: Hanno Weber & Associates
Owner: Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Contractor: J.P. Cullen
Long years of exposure to weather and deferred maintenance caused the existing Milwaukee train passenger concourse, built in 1965 to deteriorate beyond repair. Together with non-complying accessibility and life safety code violations, an unkempt public presence, accentuated the need to reconstruct the facility.
A new concourse using the existing wood pile foundations and occupying the 125’-0” gap between the recently renovated bus and train terminal building and the blank wall of a US Post Office mail distribution center had to maintain with minimal relocation the existing 5 tracks and 3 platforms serving 16 Amtrak passenger trains and 25 Canadian Pacific Railroad freight trains each day and maintain all existing passenger and freight traffic during construction.
The Station elegantly meets American with Disabilities (ADA) requirements and considers level boarding on passenger trains; as well as meeting the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 130 Code egress and evacuation requirements from fully loaded trains on all 5 tracks in less than 6 minutes.
The design accommodates expected Amtrak passenger growth and frequency plus anticipated commuter traffic while maximizing sustainability by relying on daylight and natural ventilation.
The presence of freight trains caused the NFPA 130 Life Safety Egress Code to become a determinant variable. The exit width for over 2,400 passengers required a second crossing to supplement the refurbishing of an existing tunnel. A new overhead mezzanine avoided disruption of freight traffic during construction or having to contend with a high water table required by a tunnel. By extending the queuing area within the station the mezzanine serves the three platforms via stairs, escalators and elevators, while enabling passengers to see their destination within the concourse and thus becomes a formal focus to which passengers are attracted when crossing the tracks.
As a circulation appliance, designed to meet all the required ADA , NFPA and FRA clearances, the mezzanine was developed as a “blue” composite metal sculptural embedment within a “white” structural armature of columns and trusses sheathed in a by-passing metal and glass skin. Within the new white shell, the three-dimensional V shaped trusses in each bay , are fabricated of HSS welded steel tube sections . The top chords are infilled with skylights and the roof segments are spanned by a sheet metal box roof deck punctured by wind driven gravity ventilators over each pair of train tracks. The roof has also been equipped to accept a future photo voltaic array that exceeds the demands of the concourse. The day lighted space is complemented by night lighting that washes the walls and ceiling surfaces of the shell and stairs.
In addition to the Station's functional, technical and sustainability accomplishments, the reconstructed concourse demonstrates that a pragmatic program can engender a significant public presence as an appropriate gateway and welcoming arrival and departure space for Milwaukee.
Photos: Hedrich Blessing