Metra could move to Oswego without county-wide tax
By Jenette Sturges firstname.lastname@example.org July 25, 2012 12:54PM
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:08AM
They may as well have held the meeting in Oswego.
An open house held Tuesday evening to collect public comment on Metra’s long term strategic plan attracted a small crowd — mostly local legislators, and mostly from Oswego — to Geneva City Hall, where Metra officials spoke about what it might take to get commuter rail service out to northern Kendall County.
Surprisingly, it may not require a tax for all of the county’s residents or shoppers.
A proposed Metra expansion into Oswego, with a stop in Montgomery along the way, has excited commuters in the area since earlier this year, when Metra announced it had secured funding for two studies — an environmental impact survey and a preliminary engineering study. Both began a few weeks ago, according to David Kralik, in Metra’s strategic capital planning department, and they’ll take 18 to 24 months to complete.
They’ll also include detailed estimates on the cost and ways that communities could pay for the Metra tracks.
Collar counties contribute a .25 percent sales tax to the Regional Transit Authority to cover the costs of Metra service. But bringing Metra to Oswego might not require all of Kendall County to buy in.
“If the villages impacted can demonstrate a consistent funding scheme, that may be a way to fund it,” said Kralik.
One option, for instance, could be a tax on just the communities nearest to the future Oswego train station, according to Kralik. That is the current funding mechanism for Pace bus service to the Oswego Park-n-Ride at Orchard and Mill roads.
Other options, he said, would likely be presented to the public during the ongoing studies of the project.
Still, those hoping for an Oswego station have a lot more reason to be optimistic than underserved commuters anywhere else in Chicagoland.
About a dozen railway projects have been proposed for Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GoTo 2040 Plan, but the Oswego station is the only one to gain any traction or funding thus far, according to Metra staff.
And the project is also likely eligible for federal grants made available by the recently passed transportation bill. Metra officials said that the Oswego extension of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway would likely be eligible for New Starts grant funding, the same grant that extended the Union Pacific West line to Elburn in 2006.
Oswego Trustees Steve Volpe, Judy Sollinger and Gail Johnson and Village Administrator Steve Jones were on hand to provide Metra with additional information on returning development in the village, and to hand off a Village Board resolution and letters of support from Yorkville and from the Oswego Chamber of Commerce in favor of the rail station.
“I think we have to keep the ball rolling forward and keep pressure on public officials to let them know there is a public transportation problem in Oswego,” said Volpe. “And while Oswego may not reach 80,000 in five years, it inevitably will reach 80,000. And how do we link them throughout the region?”