Glen Ellyn trustees have agreed to a further study into a major reconstruction of the downtown Metra station site that would replace the 1960s-era depot, build a pedestrian bridge and create new drop-off and pickup areas for commuters.
Since last March, a village-hired Chicago firm, CDM Smith, and consultants from KMI Architects have been working on the first stage of the preliminary study and conducting a public outreach campaign to collect feedback for proposed improvements meant to relieve congestion, improve safety and tie in with the village's long-range plans for the central business district.
At a village board workshop this week, engineers presented high-level drawings for replacing or renovating the station as part of a larger project that would also build the tunnel to allow pedestrians to bypass the tracks to and from parking.
Trustees directed the firms to complete that initial study and focus on the most ambitious proposal: construction of a new, larger train station, the pedestrian tunnel, new platforms, and drop-off and pickup areas along Forest Avenue north of Duane Street on the south side of the tracks.
The demolition of existing structures and retaining walls could conceivably pave the way for a more open, plaza-like space west of a new building, with room for landscaping, bike racks and outdoor dining.
The entire project could cost approximately $19 million, though engineers stress that's an early, "very rough" estimate. Once they complete the first-phase study, the village plans to apply for state and federal grant funding.
The results of those applications will help future boards decide whether to proceed with an overhaul of the station that would take years to design and construct. At the earliest, Glen Ellyn could begin seeking grants in 2019, said Rich Daubert, the village's professional engineer.
"There's a number of detailed studies that we need to complete as part of phase one," said Daubert, citing reviews of accident history and potential impacts on the environment.
The single-story, 2,500-square-foot station sits just south of Crescent Boulevard and Forest Avenue. But most of the commuter parking is south of the station. Pedestrians have to walk several hundred feet west to Main Street or east to Park Boulevard where there are grade-level crossings over the Union Pacific tracks, CDM Smith noted in its proposal to the village last spring.
To gather input on the issues at the existing station and alternatives, the village offered an online survey from June to August. Of the 860 respondents, most expressed support for a grade-separated, pedestrian crossing, but others raised concerns about the cost.
More than 500 of those surveyed said the station improvements should blend in with the downtown's surrounding character.
With those survey results in mind, architects envision a new station with arches over the entrance, drawing inspiration from a 1926 depot in Glen Ellyn.
CDM Smith also has designed a new Elmhurst Metra station with a clock tower as a focal point. In his State of the City address earlier this month, Mayor Steve Morley said Elmhurst has received $12.4 million in grant money for the $17 million project to replace its train station, also built in the 1960s and last renovated in the 1990s.