Transportation improvements among goals for Libertyville
From a new parking garage to remodeling the downtown train station and planning for the area around it, transportation improvements are a big part of Libertyville's goals for the coming year.
As it does every January, the village board has adopted a list of projects and priorities for the next budget year, which begins May 1. Certain items, such as continuing to seek development for vacant properties, are long-standing and carry over, while others represent fresh ideas.
Transit is a key component of the 2016-17 list, with the downtown Metra station and surrounding area expected to get a lot of attention.
The village for years has been accumulating money in its commuter parking fund with the idea of doing something with the downtown commuter station. For a while, that involved replacing the station and incorporating it in the development of the adjoining Trimm property. But that has not materialized, and village officials intend to remodel the existing station at Milwaukee Avenue and Lake Street.
"We want to just update it," Mayor Terry Weppler said. "Our station is pretty plain Jane and, quite honestly, ugly."
The village is in the process of soliciting proposals, officials said.
The mayor "doesn't want to wait until there's any associated redevelopment in the area because a train station is one of your front doors and we'd like to see it renovated," added John Spoden, community development director.
Village Administrator Kevin Bowens said Metra no longer provides funding for new stations, so an interior and exterior remodeling of the downtown station, possibly to be modeled after Grayslake's Lake Street station, will be the preferred option.
A separate but related project -- and goal for 2016-17 -- calls for completion of a transit-oriented development plan for a quarter-mile radius of the station. Last fall, Libertyville landed an $80,000 grant from the Regional Transportation Authority for the work, which is led by a consultant.
A task force, including representatives from the RTA, Metra and Pace, has finished key sections and is expected to present an update later this month.
Building a second parking garage downtown also is a priority. Village officials last fall approved the design of a 340-space deck to be located south of the Libertyville Civic Center. Work was expected to begin within weeks, but the lowest bid for the work was significantly higher than the $8.3 million estimate and the village is examining options.
Other goals on the 2016-17 list include continuing streetscape improvements along Peterson Road/Route 137 and proceeding with the fourth year of neighborhood road repairs funded by $20 million in voter-approved property tax hikes.