Glen Ellyn formally unveils $14.4M grant to replace Metra station
After the morning rush Monday, it was still a tight squeeze inside Glen Ellyn's Metra station when village officials made the case for replacing the outdated depot.
The occasion was a ceremony to formally unveil a $14.4 million grant for construction of a new station and a pedestrian tunnel.
The village welcomed U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Sean Casten, state lawmakers and transit leaders to celebrate the infusion of federal funds. Squeezed in around benches and renderings, the gathering also got a firsthand look at the space crunch and accessibility issues plaguing the station.
Built in the 1960s, the one-story building is too small for Glen Ellyn's ridership, engineers say. The station handled 1,929 weekly boardings at the time of a 2018 Metra survey, the most-recent data available. That's an 11 percent increase from 2016 and makes the Glen Ellyn stop the second-busiest on the Union Pacific West Line.
And yet the station only has one public restroom. More than 800 commuters are on a waiting list to reserve parking spaces near the station.
The village expects ridership will only increase with residential developments either under construction or in the planning stages downtown.
But the grant, awarded by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, brings a new station and pedestrian tunnel closer to reality, a roughly $20 million project that would remedy space and safety issues around the entire downtown site, engineers say.
"As we look to the future, and we see more people riding transit, we hope that happens not only because it's safe, affordable and convenient, but because it's a choice that helps mitigates the effects of climate change," CMAP Executive Director Erin Aleman said Monday. "We set a goal of creating a region that's more resilient and prepared for the changes that we expect to come with a changing climate. So one way we're supporting that goal is by prioritizing investments for federal transportation dollars."
The 2,500-square-foot depot sits just south of Crescent Boulevard and Forest Avenue. But most of the commuter parking is south of the station. Pedestrians have to walk about 500 hundred feet from the station in either direction to either cross over the tracks at Main Street or Park Boulevard.
"This safety concern of the village's is growing, particularly as Union Pacific Railroad is increasing the frequency at which it switches the inbound and outbound platform functions to accommodate freight traffic," officials wrote in a project proposal. "Commuters often receive little notice and must scramble to cross the tracks to get to the appropriate platform."
But the new tunnel, immediately west of the station, would eliminate those safety issues, engineers say. The underpass, with ramps on both the north and the south sides, would improve accessibility for people who use wheelchairs or strollers and encounter obstacles such as aging stairs to the front of the station facing Crescent Boulevard.
"This project also will address ADA accessibility challenges that come with older facilities, including designated ADA drop-off and pickup areas on either side of the tracks, ADA-accessible washrooms and accessible ramps and sidewalks," Village President Diane McGinley told the gathering.
To ease congestion, the project would reconfigure traffic patterns, increase access for Pace bus service and expand bicycle parking from 92 to 200 spaces, McGinley said. Through the tunnel, pedestrians and bicyclists also will have safer access to the Illinois Prairie Path.
The project is years away from breaking ground -- officials are tentatively looking to bid the project in March 2023 -- but the village plans to continue applying for grants.
Those efforts coincide with planning for a new parking garage across from the train station, behind the Civic Center.
"This investment will allow the village to reduce the 800-commuter waiting list and support additional Metra riders while reducing congestion on our roads," McGinley said.