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Friday, November 06, 2009

Metra proposes four more stations in McHenry County

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A proposed $500-million project to improve commuter train service in Chicago and its suburbs includes adding four stops in McHenry County, the Chicago Tribune reports. Prairie Grove and Johnsburg would get train depots. Those communities are along a branch line off the Metra UP Northwest Line that veers north near Crystal lake, Ill., to the city of McHenry. The other proposed stops would be about 1.5 miles apart along tracks that run parallel to U.S. Highway 14. Those stops would be between existing downtown depots in Crystal Lake and Woodstock.

The project could take from three to six years to build if Metra gets federal funding -- and if all the pieces fall into place, said Phil Pagano, executive director of Metra. Pagano addressed a recent meeting of the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission, telling it about Metra's plans to buy more than 17 acres at Country Club Road and Prairie Drive in unincorporated Ridgefield near McHenry County College.

Metra plans to buy the land for $1.5 million and build a "typical" Metra depot with two warming shelters and a parking lot with 857 spaces. The land would be annexed into Crystal Lake and built meeting the city's watershed code.

"Land is land," Pagano told the commissioners. "It goes away if you don't buy it."

The train depot in Woodstock would be near a minor-league baseball stadium, the building of which was delayed until next year because of wetland issues, a Woodstock city official said.

That parcel for the Woodstock train station is being donated to Metra. Addressing the nearness of the two proposed stops, Pagano said Metra would readjust its schedules to ensure trains wouldn't make every stop. But he said the station near the baseball stadium wouldn't be built without the Ridgefield station and is part of Metra's overall plan to improve the rail system.

Metra's Union Pacific Northwest line runs 71 miles from the Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago to Harvard in northern McHenry County.

Commission members Dave Goss and James Batastini were concerned about the traffic the new train stops would generate. But Pagano said the new stations would reduce the number of commuters driving into downtown Crystal Lake to catch a train.