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updated: 3/13/2017 8:18 PM

Search for money to build new Elmhurst Metra station begins

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  • This rendering shows what Elmhurst's Metra station could look like if the city can raise enough money to realize the design team's vision.

    This rendering shows what Elmhurst's Metra station could look like if the city can raise enough money to realize the design team's vision.
    courtesy of CDM Smith

  • Elmhurst has applied for $18 million in federal funds to build a new downtown Metra station.

      Elmhurst has applied for $18 million in federal funds to build a new downtown Metra station.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

The search for funding to pay for a new Metra station in downtown Elmhurst began this month when the city applied for $18 million in federal funds.

But for the city's vision for an eye-catching, usable, ADA-compliant station to be realized, it may need even more money.

The current plan is the result of a lengthy process that involved residents and the design firm CDM Smith.

Benjamin Harper, the CDM Smith project manager, said there are several problems with the current station, which was built in the 1960s and last renovated in the 1990s.

Harper said the city's interest in improving the station has been spurred by recent growth in Elmhurst's downtown.

"The city has been very progressive trying to develop the new downtown and increase density," he said. "The only piece that is the same downtown is the station, which has been there for years."

Plans call for a 2,400-square-foot building on the inbound side of the tracks. It would feature a 1,100-square-foot waiting area, ADA-approved accessible washrooms, and a small office for ticket sales.

The building on the outbound side would be more modest by comparison, covering just 450 square feet with a waiting room.

The current pedestrian tunnel is accessible only by stairs, so Harper said officials would like to build a second tunnel that could be used by bicyclists and people in wheelchairs.

City Manager James Grabowski said officials want to improve traffic safety near the station by narrowing the street, widening the sidewalks and adding a drop-off lane.

He said narrower streets slow drivers down. The extra lane would prevent traffic from grinding to a halt when Metra riders get dropped off.

Harper said one of the most popular features in the plans is a clock tower that would be on the north side of the tracks and be visible throughout downtown.

"The public likes the idea of an iconic clock tower there," Harper said. "It can kind of be a focal point of the station and downtown."

But the city's ability to pay for the new tunnel, clock tower and every other aspect of the project depends on how much money it is able to raise through federal and state sources.

Harper said the city has strong support from local and federal representatives, several of whom wrote letters of support submitted with the funding request.

Harper said the city also will have to decide how much of its own money to contribute to the project if it comes to that.

The current timeline, subject to change, calls for the city and CDM Smith to spend the rest of this year pursuing funding and then completing the final plan next year and starting construction in the summer of 2019.

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