Changes in plans in Glen Ellyn? The latest on the effort to revamp the downtown train station

  • A rendering by CDM Smith shows plans for a new Metra station in downtown Glen Ellyn.

    A rendering by CDM Smith shows plans for a new Metra station in downtown Glen Ellyn. Courtesy of village of Glen Ellyn

  • A rendering by CDM Smith shows stairs leading to a pedestrian underpass in a proposed redesign of the Glen Ellyn Metra station site. ADA-accessible ramps also would lead to the tunnel.

    A rendering by CDM Smith shows stairs leading to a pedestrian underpass in a proposed redesign of the Glen Ellyn Metra station site. ADA-accessible ramps also would lead to the tunnel. Courtesy of village of Glen Ellyn

  • Glen Ellyn's downtown train station was built in the mid-1960s.

    Glen Ellyn's downtown train station was built in the mid-1960s. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Posted7/23/2021 5:30 AM

The concept behind a new Glen Ellyn train station is to create a downtown focal point while giving commuters easier access to a transit hub.

Toward that end, village board members who began new terms in May have asked transportation planners to consider adding new features while the first phase of design and engineering is still in progress.

 

Trustee Kelly Kalinich floated the idea of an elevator in addition to stairs and ramps for Metra riders, especially those with mobility issues, coming to the station through a new pedestrian tunnel.

Village President Mark Senak has expressed interest in expanding the retail footprint of the new depot -- there's already a coffee shop -- to add businesses.

"Our train station can really be much more than just a place where you get on and off the trains, particularly because it's so critically located in the downtown," Senak said.

During a recent board meeting, engineers gave trustees an update on the project's funding, timeline and challenges. Here's a look at where things stand.

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Funding

The village has secured more than $16 million in federal and state funding for the reconstruction of the station site.

In late 2019, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning announced an allocation of $14.4 million in federal funds. The Illinois Commerce Commission also has earmarked $2 million toward the pedestrian underpass. And Metra is committed to a contribution of $4 million to support the project, officials said.

Engineers estimate the village's share would cost roughly $5.1 million, including decorative streetscape and utility work on Crescent Boulevard as part of broader downtown revitalization efforts.

"We'll continue to review other funding opportunities for the project," said Rich Daubert, the village's professional engineer.

Metra ridership

In pre-pandemic times, ridership at the Glen Ellyn station grew 25% from 2006 to 2018, making it the second-busiest stop on Metra's Union Pacific West Line.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Metra trips overall tumbled to 3% of normal ridership in April 2020 while the state's stay-at-home order was in place. But the agency has shown signs of recovery.

Last month, Metra handled 1.2 million trips, or 19% of its ridership in June 2019. Ridership also increased 59% compared to January of this year.

This month, Metra reported averaging 65,700 riders a day for the week ending July 9, up from 45,900 at the start of June.

"They are anticipating that to continue to grow if we don't have a regression due to COVID," Daubert said.

Historical review

In consultation with the Illinois Department of Transportation, the state's historic preservation officer determined that the station might be eligible for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

The state made that determination based on the station's midcentury Colonial Revival architectural style, Daubert wrote last fall in a memo to the board.

"There's a process that we have to work through," Daubert said. "It doesn't mean that we can't do the project."

Required as part of federal grant funding, the process includes developing reports that show "very objectively" why the station reconstruction would meet the project's purpose and needs.

Community historic preservation groups also have been consulted and support new construction, officials said.

"We're going to continue to work through this and work through the balance of Phase 1 engineering as quickly as we can," Daubert said, "but we are subject to the timeline constraints of that process."

The village tentatively expects to begin the second phase of engineering in 2022. Construction could start in 2025.

"That's just at this particular point a target timeline that's united with our timeline for the streetscape project," Daubert said.

Project scope

The existing station was built in 1966 atop a kind of pedestal on Union Pacific property just south of Crescent Boulevard and Forest Avenue.

With about 1,900 square feet, the one-story station is too small for its capacity needs, engineers say. Most of the parking is on the south side of the tracks, but the station is on the north side. And traffic backs up on Crescent and Main Street because of limited drop-off and pickup locations.

"The access to the station is challenging in Glen Ellyn for Metra users, regardless of how they get to the station, whether it's walking, riding or biking," said Steve Hands, senior project manager at CDM Smith, a village-hired engineering firm.

To relieve congestion around the station site, the project would reconfigure traffic patterns, expand bicycle parking, and designate new drop-off and pickup areas on both the north and south sides of the tracks.

The new depot -- 50% larger in capacity -- would have ADA-accessible bathrooms and more room for waiting areas. Warming stations and a plaza area also would make the site more commuter-friendly.

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