YORKVILLE – Efforts to expand Metra commuter rail service into Kendall County may get another boost from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s six-year, $41.5 billion infrastructure plan dubbed “Rebuild Illinois.”
According to the $41.5 billion preliminary plan, which is anticipated to be officially unveiled this week, $100 million would be earmarked for a Metra rail extension in Kendall County.
Oswego Village President Troy Parlier said the village would have a head start to have the station built in Oswego, since the infrastructure is already there. He said the parking lot for the Oswego Park-n-Ride, which opened in June 2004 but ceased operation in July 2015, was built in a way where a station could be added in the future and the village owns property on both sides of railroad.
If everything fell into place in the planning process and funding could be secured, Parlier said, the village would be very lucky to get the Metra train station.
“That just opens up all kinds of opportunities especially where it’s located right on Orchard Road,” Parlier said.
The release of the state infrastructure plan draft comes after the Metra Board of Directors awarded a $4.7 million contract to Chicago-based Alfred Benesch & Company for conceptual engineering and design work for the possible extension of commuter rail service into Kendall County along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway’s mainline tracks. Possible station locations could include Montgomery, Oswego, Yorkville, Plano and Sandwich in DeKalb County.
Kendall County Board Chairman Scott Gryder said it’s hard to say which city would be the most likely to get the station, between Oswego having the Park-n-Ride lot but no space for a rail yard, Plano already having an Amtrak station and Yorkville possibly housing the rail yard. He said the conceptual engineering plan is going to be just as important of a step as the possible state funding from the proposed infrastructure plan to bedder address what would make the most sense for the county.
“That is going to be roadmap to figure out how we pay for it long term,” Gryder said.
The $4.7 million for the conceptual engineering contract will be fully funded through federal capital funds. That funding will come out of $7.5 million that was earmarked by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Plano in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Metra spokesman Michael Gillis had said Kendall County communities that would be interested in the service would have to come up with way to fund the station on their own, since Kendall County is not one of the six counties that are part of the Regional Transportation Authority. He had said service in Cook, Lake, McHenry, DuPage, Kane and Will counties is funded partly by sales taxes collected within those six counties.
Gryder said he has heard from Metra officials that Kendall County has been on the service’s radar since it is the fastest-growing county in a state that is seeing a lot of people leaving overall.
He said how the project would be paid for has always been the main question and it continues to be so, with new railroad track costing $8 to $10 million a mile to lay down and the project needing a matching federal dollar amount.
“That’s something that’s a very big question mark right now as to how that’s going to go forward,” Gryder said.
Parlier said Kendall County residents should be aware that the process of getting a Metra station is going to be a long one.
“I’m very thankful for our legislators getting our interests put out there and coming through for us on this step of the journey,” Parlier said.
Route 47 upgrades still sought
The plan’s draft also includes $57 million to widen Illinois Route 47 in McHenry County.
The section of Route 47 stretching from U.S. Route 14 to Illinois Route 120 has the highest existing traffic along the entire corridor. About 15,000 to 26,000 vehicles travel on the stretch each day and that portion has some of the highest crash rates, according to the draft.
Gryder said the county has tried and continues to try to get the resources to fix Route 47 in Kendall County from Kennedy Road to Cross Street in Sugar Grove. He said he’s obviously excited about Metra, but fixing roads that needed the repairs is something that directly affects residents and is more of an immediate priority for residents going north or south.
“We’ve got some definite transportation needs in our county and we’re trying to address those,” Gryder said.