Is Metra on track to build a commuter station in Oswego?
That’s what three suburban mayors hope to find out on Jan. 24, when they head to Chicago to meet with Metra’s executive director, Alex Clifford. According to Oswego Village President Brian LeClercq, the goal of the meeting—which also includes Montgomery Village President Marilyn Michelini and Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, along with state legislators—is to get everyone on the same page.
An Oswego commuter station has been a topic of discussion for years, and LeClercq has been a staunch supporter of the idea. Though it could take between 10 and 15 years to complete, and cost more than $120 million, Oswego already has a popular park-and-ride facility near Orchard and Mill roads, established in 2005—the first step toward securing a station.
And before leaving office, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert secured roughly $75 million in federal funding for the project.
The demand for rail transportation in the area is high, according to Michelini, with many residents driving to Aurora each day to take the train into Chicago. And transportation remains a major issue for economic growth, Michelini said.
Montgomery has conducted its own study on transit-oriented development, adopted in 2009, and is pursuing a Metra station of its own. Village leaders have designated a site for a park-and-ride and a future station—property on the current home of Lyon Workspace Products on North Main Street.
And though Michelini said she supports a commuter station in Oswego, she’d like to see one in Montgomery as well. It might even be a more attractive option, she said, since Kendall County may have to join the Regional Transportation Authority to accommodate a Metra stop, whereas Kane County—where the Montgomery stop would potentially be located—is already an RTA member.
And with RTA membership comes new taxes, which would have to be approved by county-wide referendum.
“Because of the RTA, while I support locating a station in Oswego, there will still be people who will object,” Michelini said.
LeClercq said Oswego is still moving forward with a second rail option—to become a stop on Amtrak’s Chicago-Quad Cities line. When LeClercq and 14th District Congressman Randy Hultgren last spoke about this project in November, they pitched it as a cheaper and faster way to bring rail traffic to Kendall County.
An Amtrak stop, they said, could be completed within three years, and cost between $6-$10 million, since it would not require laying additional rails.
Amtrak is looking to provide service between Chicago and the Quad Cities in 2014, and Hultgren, who sits on the House Transportation Committee and Rail Subcommittee, said he is hoping to include funding in an impending transportation bill.
But a Metra station is still the goal, LeClercq said. And the Jan. 24 meeting should clarify just where the interested parties stand on the project.
"This meeting is just to make sure we're all on the same page as to what their intentions are,” he said. “I've been trying to get everyone I can to see what our needs are out here, and I hope to be able to communicate that to Metra.”