Streets and sidewalks around Union Station will get a little less crowded under a new deal the Committee on Transportation and Public Way approved with Megabus. It transfers a street under the Congress Parkway to the charter bus company to build a stop to pick up and drop off passengers.

Members Present: Chairman Anthony Beale (9), Pat Dowell (3), Marty Quinn (13), Matt O’Shea (19), Willie Cochran (21), Chris Taliaferro (29),  Milly Santiago (31), Deb Mell (33), Gilbert Villegas (36), Anthony Napolitano (41) Michele Smith (43

The city has been working for years to address the growing congestion around the West Loop train station, which sees an average of 120,000 passengers a week. And according to Jeff Sriver with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the mix of those commuter passengers, cars, taxies, CTA buses has made it difficult for Megabus to pick up passengers curbside at their current location a block away from the station on the corner of West Van Buren and South Canal Street.

Sriver said that’s why CDOT sought City Council approval to vacate property owned by the State Department of Transportation at 432-498 South Clinton Street and permit Megabus to use the off-street location as a bus stop. Under the 25-year agreement, Megabus will have to aesthetically improve the land and add new lighting, pavement, and signs.

But aldermen were less concerned about the traffic. They wanted to know what was in it for the city and who Megabus would hire as a contractor.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3) asked more questions than anyone else on the committee, inquiring if the city would make money on the permit (answer: no); if the city makes money every time Megabus sells a ticket to or from Chicago (answer: no); and if it’s common for cities to vacate public streets for private transportation companies (answer: Yes, charter buses are considered common carriers like taxis which are allowed to pick up passengers curbside).

MegaBus plans to spend $350,000 to $500,000 on construction, according Jim Schwartz, who testified on behalf of the company. Their request for proposals will be private and their architect has already given them a short list of potential contractors.Chairman Anthony Beale (9) and Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) found this disappointing, and suggested the company consider opening up the bid to make it easier for minority-owned companies to enter the applicant pool.

Chairman Beale even went as far as to request that the Law Department “explore” how the city could expand its minority and women-owned business procurement requirements to private companies that hire contractors to work on public way improvements. The city’s current M/WBE program is set to expire in March. BudgetChairman Carrie Austin allowed for a temporary extension of the program last month so she could hold “in depth hearings” on how the city can strengthen it.

Two mayoral appointments to the city’s Board of Local Improvements, the body that oversees infrastructure improvements prompted by new development projects, also advanced in committee. Christopher M. Michalek, a partner at McGuire Woods, LLP, and Edward T. McKinnie, Sr., the President of the Board of Directors for Black Contractors United, will fill two of the three vacancies on the board. Neither will get paid, as Mayor Emanuel eliminated the stipend in 2011 as a way to save money.