By Bob Uphues
Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg rolled out a concept plan for improving the area around the Congress Park train station at the village board's March 11 committee of the whole meeting, calling it a "high-priority" area "in dire need of assistance."
Wiberg engaged Hitchcock Design Group, which the village has used extensively in the past to design park improvements, to design improvements at the train station, which sits just north of the intersection of DuBois Boulevard and Burlington Avenue.
"Staff is making every effort possible to try to capitalize on grant applications, and in some cases there are certain projects that we are applying to several different programs in the hopes that one will be successful," Wiberg told village board members.
The Congress Park train station improvements are one such project, and Wiberg said he submitted documents for funding consideration in the state of Illinois' capital bill. Funding requests were due in to the state in early March, Wiberg said.
The project might also be eligible for grant funding from Metra or the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad. Federal grant funding might also be available through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program, which helps fund transportation-related improvements or the federal Surface Transportation Program, which awards grants for improving collector streets, like Burlington Avenue.
"This is not set in stone," said Trustee Nicole Gilhooley of the concept plan rolled out on March 11. "These plans show that we are prepared to move forward, that we have already done the pre-planning, and should money become available we'd be more apt to move forward with it than a town that is just hoping to do something."
The plan discussed March 11 focuses on the south side of the railroad right of way, which presently is an unsightly mélange of crumbling concrete, gravel and inadequate amenities for commuters.
A permeable brick paver plaza is envisioned where there's an open gravel area now. That plaza would include two covered bike shelters that have already been approved and funded for installation in 2019.
A drop-off/turnaround area is in front of the plaza, while a new parking lot accommodating about 25 vehicles is created by removing a landscape island west of DuBois Boulevard.
While there is an existing parking lot for between 55 and 60 cars on the site of the former Brookfield Moose property in the 4000 block of DuBois Boulevard, the village sees that as ripe for commercial redevelopment in the future.
Additional parking may be able to be accommodated on Burlington Avenue east of the train station
The plan also calls for replacing the crumbling concrete retaining wall on the south bank of the train embankment and improving the lighting inside the tunnel that runs beneath the tracks and provides access to the raised platforms on either side of the tracks.
The platforms themselves are not addressed by the plan, which comes in at an estimated $720,000, according to Wiberg.
"It's not a cheap project by any means, but we are hopeful that we will get grant funding," said Wiberg, who added that village officials have meetings set up with Metra and BNSF. "The obvious hope is that one of those agencies, Metra or BNSF, would provide the matching funds to the village for any grant we receive."
Improving the platforms or making them handicapped-accessible would add dramatically to the cost. Ramps on either side would be virtually impossible due to the presence of railroad spur lines outside of both the north and south platforms. Adding an elevator would be cost-prohibitive.
"The only way we could do it is with an elevator, and that is extremely, extremely expensive," Wiberg said.