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posted: 5/26/2014 8:00 AM

Bartlett officials want to fix Metra platform problem

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  • Passengers prepare to board an inbound Metra train at Bartlett's station on Railroad Avenue. The platform for commuters arriving on outbound trains sits to the west.

       Passengers prepare to board an inbound Metra train at Bartlett's station on Railroad Avenue. The platform for commuters arriving on outbound trains sits to the west.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Bartlett's economic development panel has endorsed reconfiguring Metra platforms downtown.

       Bartlett's economic development panel has endorsed reconfiguring Metra platforms downtown.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • "The way it's set up now is unique for any town," Mayor Kevin Wallace says of the way Metra platforms are configured in downtown Bartlett. "It's confusing."

       "The way it's set up now is unique for any town," Mayor Kevin Wallace says of the way Metra platforms are configured in downtown Bartlett. "It's confusing."
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • View of the platform for passengers boarding inbound trains at the Bartlett station. A separate platform for outbound trains sits to the west of Oak Avenue.

       View of the platform for passengers boarding inbound trains at the Bartlett station. A separate platform for outbound trains sits to the west of Oak Avenue.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • View showing the westernmost portion of the platform for inbound trains at the Bartlett station. The historic depot, left, was replaced by a new station in 2007.

       View showing the westernmost portion of the platform for inbound trains at the Bartlett station. The historic depot, left, was replaced by a new station in 2007.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • In informal talks, Metra says the village would be stuck with a bill to reconfigure the platforms, officials say.

       In informal talks, Metra says the village would be stuck with a bill to reconfigure the platforms, officials say.
    Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 

Metra commuters rushing to the train in downtown Bartlett have two choices.

Get ready to walk in the morning, or put off the trek until after a day on the job.

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That's because outbound trains pull up to a platform west of Oak Avenue. Roughly two blocks away, another platform -- this one only for inbound trains -- sits east of Oak.

Where you decide to park leaves you with a walk either to or from your car.

"The way it's set up now is unique for any town," Mayor Kevin Wallace said. "It's confusing."

After hearing from frustrated businesses and residents for years, a village panel has endorsed reconfiguring the platforms. The economic development commission got behind the concept in an ambitious plan to make the downtown more accessible and business-friendly.

The village already has put into practice several of its short-term proposals.

But changing Metra's layout falls under the panel's goals for the next two to five years.

In informal talks, Metra has indicated the village would be stuck with a hefty bill.

"To them it's dollars and cents and the village's desires," Community Development Director Jim Plonczynski said. "They don't have money to do it."

In June, Bartlett will hire a consultant to see whether the village can create another tax increment financing district downtown. The consultant will help draw the boundaries, identify projects eligible for TIF dollars and put together a redevelopment plan.

In a TIF district, property tax payments to all local governments are frozen at their current levels for up to 23 years. The village funnels any additional property tax revenues above those levels into a special fund that can be used to help pay for improvements to the area.

The consultant will consider if TIF subsidies could support an overhaul of the platforms. In addition, a $20,000 traffic study downtown will take a hard look at the design, originally intended to ease congestion, Plonczynski said.

Some commuters avoid the area all together and use Hanover Park's Metra station, says Joan Plice, who's lived in Bartlett for about 34 years. The issue has been brewing since a new station debuted further east on Railroad Avenue in 2007.

"It's kind of a dilemma where you should park going to work," Plice said.

Ideally, a new platform would be built on the north side of the village's contemporary station (the old depot became a museum) and opposite the existing platform on the south side.

The cost of such a project -- likely removing parking south of Bartlett Avenue and widening Eastern Avenue -- would come with a "big price tag," Plonczynski said. But there are no major engineering roadblocks standing in the way, he said.

"It's a policy decision both by the village and Metra," Plonczynski said. "Anything can be engineered if you have enough money for it."

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