Brookfield will move ahead with a project to make improvements to the area connecting Southview Avenue with the north side of the Congress Park Metra tunnel after Cook County awarded the village a $208,845 grant for the work.
The Cook County Department of Transportation notified the village last month that its application for funding through the Invest in Cook program had been accepted to make the improvements to the north side of the railroad right-of-way.
The project is part of a larger initiative to make over the Congress Park Metra station area. Work was completed in 2020 on the area west of DuBois Boulevard south of the station, where the village constructed a new 21-space commuter parking lot and installed covered bicycle parking.
The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad is also planning to improve the station area east of DuBois Boulevard, replacing the concrete retaining wall with a sloped berm. Once that’s complete, the village intends on creating a paved plaza area in front of the station entrance.
It’s unclear when the BNSF intends to complete that improvement. Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg told the Landmark that the railroad has offered no update on when it might undertake that improvement. Until that work is done, the plaza improvement remains on hold.
In 2022, Metra separately announced it had earmarked $1 million in its capital plan for “design concepts and environmental studies” to make the Congress Park station handicapped-accessible. At present, the inbound and outbound station platforms can only be accessed via flights of stairs on either side of the right-of-way.
A Metra spokesman did not respond to a request from the Landmark seeking an update on the status of the accessibility studies.
The improvements north of the railroad right of way will be constructed in an easement that BNSF first granted Brookfield in 1917, which is between Southview Avenue at the north railroad embankment.
The easement lines up roughly with Morton Avenue and provides a way for pedestrians and bicyclists to access the station from the north via a tunnel that runs beneath the tracks through to Burlington Avenue.
Right now, there’s a gravel access road with a sidewalk along its west side running south from Southview Avenue to a railroad spur that enters the Sweetener Supply factory to the west.
Another sidewalk continues south, past a lawn/storm water drainage area, from the spur line to the Congress Park tunnel.
The planned improvements call for paving the gravel access road with concrete, installing a new 7-foot-wide sidewalk and pedestrian lighting as well as planters and benches along the lawn area south of the railroad spur.
The plan also calls for the installation of wayfinding signage at the entry point to the easement at Southview Avenue and at the railroad spur, which pedestrians have to cross to get to the tunnel.
The total cost of the improvements is estimated at $417,690, of which the grant will cover half.
The village is in the beginning stages of working with BNSF to record its easement agreement, which was last updated in 1958.
It’s expected that the project will go out to bid in early 2024, with construction possibly next year as well.