The village of Brookfield performed some cosmetic improvements to the Congress Park Station platform and station in recent years in addition to building a new parking along Burlington Avenue. (Bob Uphues/Editor)

The board of directors of Metra, the commuter rail division of the Regional Transportation Authority, voted 9-0 on June 15 to add seven projects, including one at its Congress Park Station in Brookfield, to its 2022 Capital Plan after receiving more than $60 million in new funds from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

According to a memo in the June 15 Metra board packet from CEO/Executive Director Jim Derwinski, Metra will direct $1 million in State of Good Repair program funds in 2022 for “design concepts and environmental studies” to make the Congress Park Station handicapped-accessible.

There is little in the way of detailed information on how long it would take to complete such preliminary engineering, and a Metra spokesman told the Landmark that there is not yet any source of construction funding for such a project.

However, the funding does mean that Metra will begin designing such improvements much sooner than originally thought.

“The money we programmed [June 15] will help fund the very beginning of the process, covering design concepts and environmental studies, for improvements at the station,” said Metra spokesman Michael Gillis. “We don’t have any more details or a timeline for the process.”

Making the station, which is accessible only via flights of stairs, wheelchair accessible would be part of a larger plan to improve and beautify the Metra stop, one of three in Brookfield and the only one in the village from which Metra trains run express to Union Station in Chicago seven times each weekday. 

The station is also the first stop out of Union Station for six express trains during the afternoon/evening on weekdays. Metra trains do not stop at Congress Park on weekends or holidays.

In 2020, the village of Brookfield launched the first phase of a multiphase effort to improve the area in and around the Congress Park Station, constructing a 21-space commuter parking lot in the Burlington Avenue right-of-way west of DuBois Boulevard.

The village also improved sidewalks, installed covered bicycle parking near the station and made improvements to the tunnel, stairs and platform shelters. The project cost roughly $340,000 to complete and was paid for through a combination of federal Community Development Block Grant funds and money from the Congress Park TIF District, which includes the public right-of-way south of the station.

Meanwhile, the Landmark has learned the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad, which owns the rail right-of-way intends to reconstruct the deteriorating concrete retaining wall on the south side of the railroad embankment, facing Burlington Avenue, sometime this year.

BNSF plans obtained by the Landmark show the railroad intends to reinforce the wall by constructing a berm that slopes southward from the top of the embankment. A rendering shows that Brookfield plans to lay a paved plaza/drop-off area in front of the station.

No date has been given for the start of that work.