Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on April 12 announced that Riverside will receive two grants totaling nearly $1.6 million to help repair the roof of the historic downtown train station and pave the way for a dramatic reconfiguration of East Burlington Street in the village’s central business district.
Village officials have been seeking grant funding to repair the train station roof for many years and previously have had their requests turned down. With $818,160 now in hand, Riverside will be able to repair and restore the clay tile roof of the station, along with making repairs to soffits, gutters and the roof structure.
But the $754,660 grant for East Burlington Street will result in a dramatic overhaul of the central business district. Preliminary plans unveiled last August envision a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly central business district with wider sidewalks that will allow for more outdoor seating, above-ground planters, bike racks and green infrastructure elements such as permeable pavers.
“I think it will be historic,” said Village President Ben Sells. “It’s going to considerably rework Burlington Street in our central business district.”
Sells said the project would be a showcase for the village’s commitment to building sustainable infrastructure projects and that it would dovetail with the green parking lot at 61-63 E. Burlington St., which was built in 2012.
Burlington Street, said Sells, was the first step in a comprehensive makeover of the downtown area.
“Ultimately, we want to bring this down to Quincy Street and then over to East Avenue,” said Sells, referring to the other principal areas of the central business district. “This is the main piece.
“We’re all just giddy.”
The federal grant money comes to the village through the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program and represents 80 percent of the total estimated cost for the two projects. Riverside will have to chip in about $400,000 as its match for the grant. The matching funds are likely to come from the village’s general operating fund.
The Illinois Department of Transportation, which handled the grant applications, received 232 requests for funds and handed out 71 grants totaling almost $53 million.
In addition, Riverside previously received funding to resurface East Burlington Street from Longcommon Road to Harlem Avenue. That project was slated to happen in 2014 but was pushed off until 2015 as the village awaited word about the ITEP streetscape grant.
Officials now have close to a year to develop a final plan for the central business district portion of the East Burlington Street project. Work on East Burlington Street is expected to take place during the summer of 2015.
“It gives us more time to prepare drawings and really go out and get community input to ensure the final design is reached by allowing all parties to voice an opinion,” said Village Manager Peter Scalera, who, along with Public Works Director Edward Bailey and the village’s engineering firm, put together the ITEP application within a month last summer.
“The Burlington grant allows us to bring it into the current century and have a lasting impact on the business district,” Scalera said.
Meanwhile, Riverside expects to begin work on the train station roof by late summer or early fall, said Scalera.
“While I’m very happy for the Burlington grant, I’m more ecstatic for the train station grant,” Scalera said. “It’s been one of my goals since I first arrived.”