A $4.9 million renovation courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 arrived at Winnetka’s historic Elm Street train station Monday with a restoration of much of the original woodwork and modern elevators from the station to the platform.
joined the festivities alongside , , , Metra board member and Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder and other dignitaries amont the crowd of more than 40 people.
Heated Platforms, Elevators
Originally built in the 1940s, the station not only got a facelift but three heated platform warming shelters, two new elevators and a new pedestrian bridge to allow commuters to wait in the station and then quickly cross over the tracks to the Chicago bound platform.
Winnetka’s three stations—Elm Street, Hubbard Woods and Indian Hill—are unique from all others along the Metra North Line of the Union Pacific Railroad. They are at ground level while the tracks are either elevated or sunken for safety requiring the elevators and bridge.
“We refurbished as much of the original woodwork as possible,” Metra Director of Construction and Engineering Joseph Ott said of the two-year project.
Tucker recognized the significance of the project. She also spent much of her time thanking all the people who had helped, particularly Ken Behles and former Village President Ed Woodbury. They worked as unpaid volunteers to shepherd the project through.
“This is a much needed rehabilitation of an important transportation hub in our downtown. Metra and the Union Pacific Railroad will play a crucial role in public transportation and regional mobility,” Tucker said. “You are amazing in all you do,” she added about Behles and Woodbury.
Behles was there along with Trustees Arthur Braun, Gene Greable, William Johnson and Jennifer Spinney as well as Village Manager Robert Bahan.
Dold has been touting public private partnerships that improve projects like train stations and roads as a way to create jobs in the current economic climate. He considers the train station project a good example.
“This is an investment in infrastructure we can all be proud of,” Dold said. “So many of our commuters use it on a regular basis. Increased ridership is one of our goals and it can’t happen without educating people.”
Dold also talked about the Shuttle Bug project that takes train commuters from the station to employment centers like Discover and Baxter. The cost of the buses is borne by the company. “The Shuttle Bug takes people the extra mile to their place of business,” he said.
Public Transport's Benefits
Dold and Biss also see public transportation as a benefit to both the environment and the economy. Dold likes the way it helps people save money and reduces gasoline consumption at the same time.
“It’s a different way to save money,” Dold said. “In this economy you will see an increase in ridership. It gets cars off the road and gives people a way to get to work. We have to educate them to see it that way.”
Biss sees job creation in projects like this as well as what he considers the obvious environmental benefits. He thinks it is a boon to depressed industries like construction.
“Expanding construction in this downturn is a way to put money into construction jobs so we can accelerate the recovery,” Biss said. “If you invest in the suburban trains and the urban El you are putting money into major economic assets.”