JOLIET – The opening of the city’s new train station last week was the biggest event of the Joliet Gateway Center project but not the last.
“This is a soft opening,” Lisa Dorothy, the city’s project manager, said Wednesday at the new train station downtown.
A grand opening is planned for
June 6. Beyond that, there’s still work to do in and around the train station, ranging from the installation of snack vending machines to completing a railroad museum.
But the next biggest moment will come if the city gets funding for a bus station.
The city still hopes to find funding to build a bus station that would round out Gateway Center’s original purpose as a multimodal facility for multiple forms of public transportation. The bus station was part of the original plan but put on hold as other parts of the project ran past original cost estimates.
Gateway Center has cost $51 million to build, which has included a $30 million state grant announced in 2010 to launch the project.
Dorothy said the city is working with Pace to seek funding for the bus station. In the meantime, she has a checklist of other items to complete. They include:
• A Pace Ventra vending machine, which people can use to buy bus tickets as they move from one mode of public transportation to another.
“This is a hub,” Dorothy said. “Train riders might come in on a train and get on a bus.”
• Snack vending machines.
• A coffee shop, which would be run by a private vendor. The city last week put out a request for proposals seeking vendors interested in using first-floor space specifically created for a coffee shop.
• Premium parking, which will be across the street (Mayor Art Schultz Drive) from the station. The parking lot already is there but has been used for a construction stage and a temporary Metra ticket trailer. Dorothy said the 57-space lot will be paved once the weather warms up.
• Removing the Amtrak ticket trailer on the other side of Jefferson Street, which will make those parking spaces available again for the Joliet Slammers.
• Creating access to the signal tower, where a row of heavy metal railroad switches and levers offers a glimpse at how workers switched tracks manually for decades until 2016, when the operation moved to Omaha, Nebraska.
The signal tower was open Wednesday for the opening of the station. But it normally will be closed. Dorothy said the city hopes to coordinate tours with the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
In addition to making travel better for rail passengers, construction of the station, new boarding platforms and other improvements have spruced up the downtown area around Jefferson Street and Mayor Art Schultz Drive.
Dan Morin, who lives about a block away from the new train station, called it “beautiful” while checking it out Wednesday.
“It’s a very impressive building,” Morin said. “It kind of dresses up the area.”