Rendering courtesy Jeff Tolman /CTA

The CTA’s Forest Park Terminal would be redesigned and the adjacent rail yard and maintenance shop would be expanded under a proposal presented by CTA representatives to village officials at the Oct. 13 village council meeting.

The presentation of the CTA’s Blue Line Forest Park Branch Vision Study was given by Carole Morey, chief planning officer, and Janine Farzin, project manager for the study.

The project would be tied to the Illinois Department of Transportation’s project to reconstruct the Eisenhower Expressway. Both projects are still in the planning stage with no cost estimates or time frames.

Under the proposal, a new terminal would be constructed north of the existing terminal, which was built in 1982. The terminal also would be moved east, allowing riders to enter from both sides of Desplaines Avenue and improving access for riders transferring from the nine PACE bus lines serving the station. Bicycle racks would be included, bicycle lanes on Desplaines would be added, and traffic flow would be improved.

Morey pointed out that 37 percent of the Blue Line riders transfer from PACE buses.

Expansion of the rail yard and maintenance shop, which would require the loss of 400 of the 1,051 park-and-ride spaces available, would address inadequate fleet storage and shop size and improve the configuration of the yard. Morey noted that the current maintenance shop can only accommodate six-car trains while the majority of the CTA’s Blue Line trains are eight cars long.

Some park-and-ride lots are owned by the village and some by the CTA. Morey admitted that the 401 spaces in the village-owned lots are generally filled, while the 650 spaces in the CTA-owned lots are not, which Mayor Anthony Calderone attributed to the fact that the rate to park in the village-owned lots is $2 less.

The project would not require any additional property and it would incorporate access to the express bus route that IDOT officials have included in the Eisenhower Expressway project. 

Ridership was 1,157,040 in 2014, an increase of less than 1 percent from 2013.

Overall, the Blue Line is “beyond its useful life,” according to Morey, who noted the track needs to be replaced and stations need to be upgraded or replaced. Current track is plagued by contaminated ballast, deteriorated ties, poor drainage and worn rails. 

Only four of 12 stations are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, she added. 

Replacing the track would eliminate the need for slow zones and improve performance while new stations would feature wider platforms and provide better protection from the elements.

Referring to being “off to a great start,” Calderone praised the CTA for soliciting input on the project and encouraged village commissioners to share their opinions.

“I want to applaud the CTA and IDOT for the number of public input sessions,” he said following the presentation. “Both agencies have worked hard to gather stakeholder input.”

Commissioners were quick to share their opinions, raising concerns and offering suggestions.

Commissioner Dan Novak expressed concern about the loss of parking and relocating the kiss-and-ride area, while Commissioner Joseph Byrnes was concerned about pedestrian traffic on Desplaines Avenue.

Commissioner Rachell Entler expressed concern about traffic flow, especially in conjunction with traffic entering and exiting the Eisenhower Expressway while Commissioner Tom Mannix was concerned about traffic patterns, noting it is “an absolute nightmare” currently.

He specifically cited the possibility of traffic tie-ups caused by drivers picking up or dropping off riders on Desplaines Avenue, which could happen on both sides of the street if a second entrance is constructed.

Calderone advocated withholding judgment on traffic patterns.

“At some point we’ll see an overlay of the CTA project and the IDOT project,” he said.

Morey said a public hearing on both projects is being planned and Village Administrator Tim Gillian said IDOT officials will make a presentation on the Eisenhower Expressway project to the village council in the near future. 

Mannix inquired about the possibility of including retail space in the terminal, such as a coffee shop. Byrnes also suggested adding a cellphone lot on Van Buren Street, similar to those at Midway and O’Hare airports, which Morey called a “good idea” and admitted it had not been considered.

“In the long term, it’s in our best interests to form a team,” Calderone said, adding he believes residents should be included.

He also advocated acting sooner rather than later despite the uncertainty over the timing of the Eisenhower Expressway project.

“Things have been known to change,” he said.