By Bob Uphues
The second phase of the downtown Riverside streetscape makeover will continue in 2018 south of the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad tracks, funded in large part by a federal surface transportation grant administered through the West Central Municipal Conference (WCMC).
Riverside is in line to receive about $378,000 in grant funds, leaving the village to cover the remaining $162,000 of the estimated $540,000 project. The scope of work centers on the area immediately adjacent to the south train platform, including a realignment of the intersection of Riverside and Bloomingbank roads to make it safer for pedestrians and motorists trying to turn right after crossing the tracks.
"The big thing is to improve safety at the railroad tracks, which affects both vehicles and pedestrians," said Sonya Abt, the village of Riverside's community development director.
The work area also includes the streetscape on the east side of Riverside Road immediately south of the railroad tracks, in front of the Arcade Building.
According to plans submitted by the village as part of its application to the WCMC, the village plans to make the complicated intersection safer for pedestrians by eliminating long crosswalks, particularly the one immediately south of the tracks, which traverses the Bloomingbank Road cutoff on the west side of Riverside Road.
Because the crosswalk starts close to the tracks, vehicles often stop on the tracks, waiting for pedestrians to cross to the triangular island between the train station and Guthrie Park.
"That's a large expanse of pavement to cross," Abt said.
The new layout increases the size of the sidewalk area immediately adjacent to the train station and shifts the turn lane farther south. A new, shorter crosswalk located west of Riverside Road directs pedestrians to the island.
With the crosswalk farther away from the tracks, even if a pedestrian stops turning vehicles, "they won't be stopping on the tracks," Abt said.
Parking allowed now along the north end of the island will be eliminated and a new concrete walkway will cut through the island instead of along the eastern edge. By doing that, the village will also shorten the crosswalks from the island to Guthrie Park and from the island to the east side of Riverside Road.
The expanded brick paver plaza created immediately east of the train station would house new bike racks and it would be landscaped, including a raised central planter. Brick pavers would extend west in front of the station, pushing out the sidewalk area to the south. The train station's covered entry way, which is now accessible to vehicles, will be a brick-paved, pedestrian-only area in the future.
In addition, parking on the north side of Bloomingbank Road near the station will be clearly marked. New angled parking spaces will be created west of the station's covered entryway.
The sidewalks on the east side of Riverside Road in front of the Arcade Building will be replaced by brick pavers to match the improvements done north of the tracks in 2016. The ground-level planting beds will be eliminated.
Village seeks grant for Quincy St.
The improvements next summer are just part of the streetscape makeover the village would like to complete south of the BNSF tracks. Riverside has been turned down a couple of times already for grants to improve the streetscape along Riverside Road and the commercial portion of East Quincy Street.
But on Nov. 16, the village board OK'd submitting an application to the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP), which administers money doled out to the state by the federal government for streetscape improvement projects.
The application is due by Dec. 1 and the village expects to be notified about a possible grant next spring. The total cost of the project is estimated at about $706,000, with the village's match amount to be about $141,000.
Plans submitted as part of the application indicate the village plans to replace the sidewalks with brick pavers (including use of permeable pavers along Riverside Road south of East Quincy Street, to match the East Burlington Street/Longcommon Road streetscape.
The plan calls for a couple of raised planters, but the parkway area along East Quincy Street is too narrow to allow very many. The plan also creates bump-outs at intersections to realign and shorten crosswalks.