By Marney Simon | Enterprise Staff
A plan to bring rail service connecting Plainfield to Chicago has long since been scrapped. But the effort to make life easier for area commuters got a big boost this week.
On Jan. 9, the members of the village board approved an intergovernmental agreement with PACE – the suburban bus division of the Regional Transportation Authority – to facilitate construction and operation of a proposed park-and-ride facility on village-owned land along Van Dyke Road.
The village previously purchased 58 acres of farmland at Van Dyke and Wood Farm Roads to accommodate the proposed Suburban Transit Access Route (STAR) Line Railway project. That plan, proposed in 2003, was eventually scrapped over a lack of cost-effectiveness.
But the transportation needs within the village remain.
PACE operates weekday rush hour bus service into Chicago from two stops in Plainfield, one at Larry’s Diner, the other adjacent to the Village Hall.
The new project will provide room to grow, as well as additional parking, by building a new facility along Van Dyke Road, north of the wastewater treatment plant.
The park-and-ride will utilize about 10 acres of the site, and will include approximately 400 parking spaces in Phase I, with an option to expand the facility by an additional 200 parking spaces in its Phase II build-out.
Like the current parking facilities, the new lot is expected to be available free of charge.
“There is no charge anticipated in the agreement, there’s no plan at this point to make it a for-charge lot,” said Village Administrator Brian Murphy. “That is one of the things that we discussed, that if it comes to being an issue later on, then that is something we would have to bring back [to PACE and the village].”
Murphy said use of the land as a park-and-ride facility made sense, since the land was originally designated for commuter use.
“This is a very big deal,” Murphy said. “This has been an ongoing project, we talked to PACE about this two or three years ago as a possibility.”
Village officials were excited about the opportunity to expand public transportation availability for commuters.
“This isn’t just necessarily a PACE station,” said Trustee Garrett Peck, echoing sentiments of other trustees. “We’re looking at something that will affect businesses and homeowners here, there’s an economic impact. We’re going to be able to harness this facility, have residents from outside of Plainfield use these service. That also brings opportunities for small businesses then, restaurants, dry cleaners, what have you, to service these people before and after they get on the bus… I see no negatives in this proposal right now.”
The Village will design, engineer, and construct the project. PACE will reimburse the village for total designs and construction cost not to exceed $5.8 million, with design and engineering costs not to exceed $1 million.
Initial design and engineering is likely to being in May, with the agreement set to last 40 years.
Subject to available funding, the village and PACE may agree to extend the use of the property to construct a bus garage and for the parking and storage of buses owned and operated by PACE.
PACE will reimburse the village within 30 days of payment.
The agreement will be signed and approved by PACE before the design process begins. The village will utilize money from the Capital Projects fund to pay for the project prior to those reimbursements. That fund holds money in excess of $8 million currently, leaving enough to handle the expected costs of design and construction.