Where the sidewalk ends might be far from your Metra station, study finds
So you've found that suburban dream home: four bedrooms, a big lot, granite countertops and -- ta-da -- "walk to Metra," the advertisement says.
Better walk the walk before signing the mortgage, because you could be dodging traffic on local roads, not sauntering safely to your train.
A recent Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning study reveals sidewalks are lacking near Metra stops in numerous suburbs.
Out of 242 stations, 30 sites have no sidewalks on 40% or more of the roads near the Metra station.
Locations with high percentages of missing sidewalks on roads include: unincorporated La Fox in Kane County, with 100%; Medinah, with 83%; Fox Lake, with 77%; Winfield, with 61%; and Rosemont, with 58%, the agency found.
Absent sidewalks are inconvenient and hazardous, and counterproductively nudge commuters into driving to the train when they could walk instead, agency planners said.
But the agency wants to offer a helping hand, not point a finger.
"Making sure people feel safe walking to the train station is a really minimal and basic thing we can start with," associate policy analyst Stephanie Levine said.
The agency is partnering with the Active Transportation Alliance to advise towns on solutions and funding.
"We're eager to work with communities and support their efforts to fill sidewalk gaps near bus stops and train stations," transportation alliance spokesman Kyle Whitehead said.
Fox Lake recognizes the sidewalk disconnect and is on it, Village Manager Anne Marrin said.
The village is poised to transform the area around the town's well-used Milwaukee District North station.
Improvements including redevelopment, landscaping, a bike trail, crosswalks and sidewalks will begin in 2021. "We want it to be safe and accessible," Marrin said.
Metra station locations range from busy village centers to rural areas, so planners aren't trying to prescribe a one-size-fits-all solution.
And that's good for Winfield, where officials pick their sidewalk battles.
Winfield's rustic appeal includes older sections of the town with grassy swales and no sidewalks. It's picturesque but was problematic for kids walking to school, Village Manager Curtis Barrett said.
Leaders prioritized a "Safe Routes to School" sidewalk project, and "we have largely completed that network," he said. So far, there's been no big push from residents for sidewalks near the Metra station, Barrett said.
One of the biggest obstacles to installing sidewalks is cost. Active Transportation Alliance experts estimate it costs $35 per linear foot to replace a sidewalk.
State Sen. Pat McGuire is sponsoring a bill to eliminate the 20% match the Illinois Department of Transportation requires local governments to chip in for bike paths and sidewalks on state roads.
The policy hurts low-income communities near busy roads like Route 53, the Joliet Democrat said. Senate Bill 3183 debuts at a Transportation Committee meeting this week.
One more thing
What other Metra stops are sidewalk-challenged? Buffalo Grove, Round Lake, Wood Dale and the Arlington Park stops lack sidewalks on 40% or more of roads within half a mile of the station.
There's a robust bike path system leading to the Arlington Park station and pedestrian features were enhanced recently, Arlington Heights Planning and Community Development Director Charles Perkins said. However, the station is surrounded by three towns -- Arlington Heights, Palatine and Rolling Meadows -- with some older neighborhoods sans sidewalks.
On the CTA, sites with the least amount of sidewalks near train stations are the Blue Line's Rosemont and Cumberland stops, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning reports.
You should know
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Beam me up
It's February, and that means about 30 gigantic concrete beams will be traveling from Wisconsin to the Mile Long Bridge construction site on the Tri-State Tollway. Delivery of the beams, which stretch 218 feet, will occur from 4:30 a.m. to noon on weekdays. The Illinois portion of the route extends east from Wisconsin on the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, south on I-290, south on the Veterans Memorial Tollway, north on I-55 to Route 45 and from there to the construction site near Willow Springs.