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Local News

Joliet preparing its case to get train station built

Train passengers wait for a Metra train to pull into the Joliet station in October in downtown Joliet. Joliet is making plans to rejuvenate efforts to build a new downtown train station.
Train passengers wait for a Metra train to pull into the Joliet station in October in downtown Joliet. Joliet is making plans to rejuvenate efforts to build a new downtown train station.

JOLIET – The city will try again this month to get the new Joliet train station on track.

The city’s downtown public transit project has been on hold since August when the Illinois Department of Transportation would not award bids for the new train station.

The train station is part of a plan that includes a bus station and new commuter platforms. But money ran out for the project and state officials would not move forward with Joliet’s plan to build the train station now and the bus station later when more money was available.

“We think the money can be found. We just need time to do that,” said Steve Jones, special projects manager for Joliet.

Jones has been meeting with representatives from IDOT, Metra, Pace and Amtrak to work out a possible funding solution, which he hopes to present to IDOT as soon as this week.

The state has control over the project, since it has provided $30 million in grants to pay for most of it. Originally estimated to cost $42 million, the project now is pegged at $49.7 million.

An IDOT spokesman has said the state wants to keep its financial commitment to all transportation agencies involved in the project.

But Pace, the suburban bus service that runs in Joliet and would use the new bus station, is willing to wait for the facility.

“We are supportive of the city position to complete the rail portion of the project,” said Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot. “Then, we will work with them later on to complete the bus portion.”

Jones said there is enough money in the project budget to build the train station and a new commuter platform. But there would be $1.9 million left for a bus station with turnaround area for buses, which is estimated to cost $6.8 million.

Joliet is trying to fill the roughly $4 million gap in part by putting in more of its own money and in part by seeking more money from the transportation agencies that will use the transit center. Jones said he is waiting on a response from Metra, which he hopes to have before going to IDOT with a proposal.

Meanwhile, he also contacted the offices of U.S. senators Richard Durbin and Mark Kirk, hoping to get funding from a transportation bill approved in December.

“We do know that the new transportation bill has funding for buses and bus facilities,” Jones said. “The key is, can we get potential federal funding to build Pace [the bus station]? It’s going to take time, so why not start with what we can build now?”

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