As regular rail commuters likely noticed, renovations to the exterior of the Barrington Metra station began Monday, and according to village officials the first day went smoothly.
Over the next two months, workers will renovate and beautify the area around the station by ripping up the crumbling bricks and replacing them with colored and stamped concrete. The station will remain in operation throughout the renovations because contractors will work on one half of the exterior then shift over to the other.
Barrington Public Works Director Mark Werksman said the goal is to make the station look nicer and reduce the annual maintenance cost of the bricks.
Werksman said his office has been spreading the word about the project by distributing fliers -- both to people at the station and under the windshield wipers of cars parked nearby -- and maintaining a display with the project's details in the station itself.
While the project has not come as a surprise to commuters, its price has surprised Barrington officials twice since the plan was approved by the village board in January.
The first surprise was an unpleasant one -- in March, Werksman told the board that the project needed more money than originally planned. One reason for the increase was an additional $20,000 in insurance costs because the work is taking place so close to the train tracks.
On Monday, officials got a more pleasant surprise regarding those costs.
"The insurance cost that we had planned for that was going to devastate us came in way lower than we thought," Werksman told trustees at their committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday.
Werksman said the cost was $15,000 below the initial estimate. At the March village board meeting Werksman said the project's total cost would come in under $200,000.
In addition to replacing the walkways around the station, the village will install planters and perform other landscape modifications.
The work will continue into the summer and, weather permitting, could possibly be done by the end of June.