Brookfield has been awarded a $150,000 federal Community Development Block Grant to help fund improvements in and around the Congress Park train station, which likely will force officials to scale back their fix-up plans in the short term.
In March, the village applied for a $400,000 grant from the federal program, which is administered through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, with a promise to match about 25 percent of the total cost of the proposed improvements.
The proposed improvements included constructing a permeable paver plaza and drop-off/turnaround area in front of the station along Burlington Avenue, creating a new parking area in the Burlington Avenue right-of-way west of DuBois Boulevard, replacing the concrete retaining wall south of the railroad, improving the appearance of the Metra platform shelters, improving the landscaping and lighting and making improvements to the tunnel that provides access to the north and south platforms.
Village officials estimated that the total cost of those improvements would be about $703,000. However, that figure was revised downward to about $545,000 after the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad informed the village that the railroad company is responsible for repairing the concrete retaining wall.
While that knocked down the cost to the village, the railroad has not guaranteed a timeline for replacing the retaining wall. Village Planner Elyse Vukelich said the railroad has said the work “might” be done by 2022, “but there’s never 100-percent certainty.”
As a result, whatever work the village undertakes, it will have to take that uncertainty into account and avoid any improvement that might be damaged when the railroad undertakes its part of the project.
Vukelich said because the village must spend the grant funds in 2020, she will begin working with the village’s consultant on the project, Hitchcock Design Group, and others to narrow the scope of work. She added that it’s likely staff will look to the village board to provide some direction as well.
“Our next step is to prioritize what elements of the plan that are most important and decide what to move to the future,” Vukelich said.
Whatever improvements are prioritized for 2020, part of the work will include the installation of two covered bike shelters, whose cost is separate from the train station improvement plan.
Initially, the plan was to place the bike shelters on the permeable paver plaza in front of the station entrance. However, because of the uncertain timing of the railroad’s replacement of the retaining wall, the shelters are being shifted west of the train station entrance, according to Vukelich.
The bike shelters are being funded largely through a pair of grants, one from the state and one from the Regional Transportation Authority. A third bike shelter will be installed outside the Prairie Avenue Metra station.