LOMBARD – Sounds of construction joined the typical train noise at the Lombard Metra station late this week as commuters experienced the start of a $9.7 million renovation project that will feature a pedestrian underpass.
While concerns about station accessibility and other inconveniences loom over the project, there also is a measure of relief that work has finally begun.
“It’s about time,” Lombard resident Annette Neibel said before boarding an early morning train Aug. 1, a few days ahead of the start of construction. “I’m tired of seeing people running across the tracks all the time.”
Neibel takes the train to downtown Chicago three times a week for work. On that morning, she had her 9-year-old daughter, Audrey, tagging along.
“And it’s good for kids because they’re not going to be able to cross the tracks – they’ll have to go underneath,” she said.
The mother’s safety concerns mirrored the primary impetus for station renovations, according to Carl Goldsmith, Lombard’s public works director.
Until the underpass is completed, pedestrians will continue to cross at track level while moving between the north and south platforms.
“The goal of this project was to eliminate this crossing to eliminate the probability of pedestrian [vs.] train incidents,” Goldsmith said.
In addition to the tunnel, renovations will include new retaining walls, ramps that adhere to the Americans With Disabilities Act, stairways, platform shelters, canopies over inbound and outbound platforms, and landscaping.
Construction planned for this week included removal of the north side ramp and stairs and construction of temporary stairs.
The Metra schedule will not change and commuters will have station access throughout the entire process, which is expected to last about 10 months.
Handicap accessibility, however, will be affected for the duration of the project. The handicap parking stalls will remain, but starting this week, the north side of the station will be inaccessible to handicap users. Goldsmith said once the south side ramp is demolished in about a month, there will be no handicap accessibility.
Riders with disabilities will be directed to use the Glen Ellyn or Villa Park Metra stations, Goldsmith said.
A short stretch of McGuire Drive, just south of Shannon’s Deli, will be closed for the duration of the project. That area marks the location for the planned tunnel. Cars still will be able to drop off train passengers using Park Avenue and then exit westbound on McGuire, Goldsmith said.
Westbound Parkside Avenue, between Main Street and Park Avenue, also will be closed for the duration.
New traffic patterns due to road closures and detours are the primary safety concern for Lombard police.
Chief Ray Byrne said his department planned to have a large presence around the station for at least the first few days, and possibly weeks, of construction to help ease traffic issues.
“There’s going to be a learning curve for pedestrians and motorists,” Byrne said.
Walking through the tunnel after it’s completed is the most prominent safety concern Byrne has heard from riders. He said the tunnel will be well lit and equipped with surveillance cameras.
“In terms of overall safety, I think the tunnel is much safer than people crossing up here [at track level].”
Boring the pedestrian tunnel will require crews to work about 36 hours, including overnight hours, during a weekend in the fall, Goldsmith said. He anticipates that weekend will be in September or October, but he said the village will work to provide residents with plenty of advanced warning.
Nearby residents and businesses can expect more horn noise due to federal regulations requiring trains to blow their horns throughout work zones to protect workers and commuters.
The village hosted Commuter Appreciation Day on Aug. 1 on the Lombard station platform in an effort to educate commuters on the coming changes.
“We know commuters are going to be put out by the dirt and dust and noise,” Village Manger Scott Niehaus said. “This was an opportunity for us to ask for their patience and to provide information about the project.”
No more delays
The project originally was expected to begin in late May, however, permit and scheduling issues prevented work from starting on time, according to Goldsmith.
He said those issues have been resolved and the only anticipated interruption in construction will be during the winter due to weather.
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Handicap accessibility: The Lombard Metra station will be completely inaccessible to handicap riders once the ramps on both sides of the track are removed. Riders can contact David Rubino of Metra at 312-322-4265 or firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate alternative plans during construction.
Email alerts: To sign up for construction updates from the village, visit www.villageoflombard.org/metraemail