The area surrounding the Prairie Avenue train station in downtown Brookfield may get a major makeover over the next couple of years if the village succeeds in winning a major grant from the West Suburban Mass Transit District.

Brookfield is looking to obtain about $280,000 from the agency, which was formed in 1972 by communities along the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad tracks to provide funding for capital improvements.

The two-phase project, which officials believe would take place between the end of 2016 and mid-2018, includes major changes to sidewalks at the complicated Prairie/Grand/Brookfield/Fairview intersection to shorten crosswalks. The “bump-outs,” would be similar in style to those installed near the Brookfield Public Library. The extended corners would be laid with brick pavers. Crosswalks also paved with red bricks would also be more prominent.

Other improvements would include tuckpointing the train station, installing new bike racks, garbage cans and recycling containers, placing new benches inside the station, adding new concrete and paved areas adjacent to the station and including wayfinding signage.

“We feel this is a very focused approach,” said Community and Economic Development Director Nicholas Greifer, who presented the plan to the village board at its March 14 meeting.

Greifer said the village hopes to pitch its application for grant funding in April and indicated that the village likely would know whether the funding was approved before the end of the third quarter of 2016.

The first phase of the project would include simper surface improvements such as tuckpointing, concrete work near the train station and the installation of benches and garbage cans.

Phase two, which would take place over 2017-18, would be the more substantial alterations to the Prairie Avenue intersection both north and south of the railroad tracks.

 The cost for the entire project is projected to cost $417,000. If the village wins a grant from the transit district, it would be responsible for paying roughly a one-third of the cost, or about $137,000.

Since municipalities are typically charged with maintaining the railroad-owned stations and platforms, grant funding from the WSMTD is often critical for larger projects.

In recent years, the district has obtained money for grants to municipalities by selling surplus rail cars. In 2006, Brookfield received $250,000 from the district and Metra to make improvements to the train platform and the commuter parking lot at village hall.

Officials chose to focus grant efforts on the Prairie Avenue station area because of the high percentage of pedestrians arriving at the station to commute downtown and the condition of the main train station.

According to information provided by the village, the Prairie Avenue station is the most heavily trafficked of the three Metra stops in the village. Roughly 605 people board trains at Prairie Avenue each weekday, about 50 percent of them walking to the station.

While the Hollywood platform sees 93 percent of its users walking to it, just about 95 people board on a typical weekday at that stop. In addition, Brookfield Zoo has maintenance responsibility for that station, also known as the Zoo Stop, so putting together an improvement plan for that station would involve input from the zoo.

“Hollywood requires a different approach,” Greifer said.

About 66 percent of the users of the Congress Park station walk to the platform, but that station sees about 250 people boarding each weekday. Making improvements to that station would also be more costly and hinge on potential development in that area, Griefer said.

“It’s a tricky Metra station,” said Greifer, who added that the real estate brokerage firm Troutman and Dams has a deal with the village to try to spur development in that area. Depending on what may transpire with that area in the coming year or so, it may be premature to talk about what kind of improvements to make at Congress Park.

At one time, Metra had considered closing the Congress Park stop due to low ridership.

“If things move ahead in the next nine to 12 months, I’d want to sit down and see what the private sector is doing and see how to plan around that for Congress Park,” Greifer said.

Riverside nets $235K grant for depot repairs

Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances announced on March 16 that the village had been awarded a $235,000 grant by the West Suburban Mass Transit District to fund repairs at the village's downtown train station.

The money will go toward repairs to the station's platform and the work will be done in conjunction with a major roof rehabilitation project slated to be completed this fall.

According to the village's grant application, work will include removing the brick pavers on the platform, repair the subgrade and reinstalling the pavers. The failing subgrade has created trip hazards and sunken areas in various spots on the platform.

New handrails will also be installed to replace the non-ADA compliant railings in place right now.

In addition, the funds will be used to repair the concrete bases for beams supporting the roof of the north station pavilion.

The latest grant brings the total amount of grant funding for downtown train station repairs to more than $1 million. Riverside received a $757,560 grant from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program and a $173,500 grant from Metra to repair the roof of the train station, which was built in 1910.

The total cost of the roof and platform repairs is estimated at $1.26 million. The village expects to award a contract for the work in late summer and begin the project in September. Work should be complete by late October. 

—Bob Uphues