Metra OKs engineering for train to Oswego, but who will pay to build it?
Extending Metra BNSF commuter service into Kendall County gathered steam Wednesday after directors approved a $4.7 million engineering contract to design a conceptual plan.
Chicago-based Alfred Benesch & Co. will draft a route extending west from the last Metra BNSF station in Aurora to a terminus in either Yorkville, Plano or Sandwich. Stations could include Oswego, Yorkville, Montgomery, Plano and Sandwich.
The work will be paid through a $7.5 million federal earmark, but how to pay for construction and operating the trains is unknown.
Kendall County isn't part of the six-county Regional Transit Authority that funds Metra, Pace and the CTA through a sales tax. So far there appears to be no official consensus in Kendall County on whether to join the RTA.
"The purpose of this work is to identify the capital and operating costs so the supporters know how much funding they will need to secure to make it happen," Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said.
The earmark was secured "by the backers of this project for this work, and the money can be spent on this work only. We cannot spend it on anything else."
Plans to extend the line to Oswego have been studied since the early 2000s when the $7.5 million was captured by former Speaker Dennis Hastert of Yorkville.
Among the staunchest supporters have been Oswego officials who say their residents will fill trains. The village has purchased land for a station and parking lot.
Right now leaders are waiting to see the results of an earlier feasibility study, Kendall County Chairman Scott Gryder said. A lot of county residents "moved here with the thought Metra would be on the horizon but it continues to be nowhere in sight. There's just not the funding there used to be," Gryder said.
"I believe our service area is growing and Metra needs to serve its customer base," Metra Director and Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig said. "Kendall County has been working diligently to enjoy reliable commuter transit," Craig said, adding the issue is whether residents would vote to undergo RTA taxation.
Metra Director John Zediker of Naperville agreed. "That will be the question once we ascertain the cost and the return on investment," he said.