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Metra’s 80th Avenue station in Tinley Park set for makeover

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Standing trackside outside Metra's 80th Avenue Station in Tinley Park, Ill., recently, Tom Britt wasn't happy, the Chicago Tribune reports. "This station needs to be improved," said the Frankfort, Ill., resident, "desperately."

Britt, a Tinley Park-based
lawyer who uses the station several times a week to go downtown for court, is
particularly critical of the vertical distance between the shoulder-width
platform and the trains. "When you’re trying to get on the train, it’s a
serious step up," he said.

Kim Battaglia, another
Frankfort resident heading downtown, agreed with Britt, and added another
gripe: "It would be nice if it had bathrooms," she said.

That complaint — and
others made in past years — could be rectified soon as part of a station
renovation scheduled to begin next spring. Part of the project is eliminating
the gap, which Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki estimates is a foot to 14 inches
and a violation of Americans With Disabilities Act regulations. Plans call for
bringing it into federal compliance by raising more than 800 linear feet on
both sides of the platform by about 8 inches.

The total funds available
for the project may increase to nearly $8 million if $500,000 recently approved
by the U.S. House wins approval from the Senate, which is expected, said Rep.
Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), who pushed for the money. Biggert announced the funds
while standing a few yards from the station on a recent picture-perfect day
with balmy temperatures, but recalled the bone-chilling cold she experienced
campaigning in January outside the facility.

"The platform is just
this wide," she said, stretching her hands apart shoulder-width. "And
it’s really cold up against the station. We really have to step it up. It would
be nice to be able to get warm" in the winter, she said.

A warming station is in the
renovation plans, but the issue goes beyond personal comfort, Biggert said.
"We really want people to use public transportation. We really want to
reduce our reliance on foreign fuel."

Federal transit funds paid
about $670,000 for engineering and design by Chicago-based Legat Architects,
which also designed the Metra station in Oak Park. The design accommodates the
3,000 daily riders estimated by Tinley Park officials.

Zabrocki said village officials
hope to get construction contracts approved in time for construction next
spring. Metra is providing $5.4 million to cover the bulk of the upgrade, with
Tinley Park kicking in a little more than $1 million for niceties that include
a clock tower, a cafe and vendor space. Plans also include more and better
lighting along the platform and in the parking lots. Biggert has secured about
$1.2 million in federal funds.

Metra’s nationally
acclaimed Oak Park Avenue station "is the minimum standard of what we want
to do," Zabrocki said. "The only question we have is how much of the
bells and whistles we’re going to put in," he said, adding that the
request for proposals will seek a separate cost estimate for each item.

Village Clerk Pat Rea said
restrooms would be part of the updated station, as will four warming/weather
shelters on the inbound platform and one shelter on the outbound.

Although Biggert and
Zabrocki put ridership at 3,000, Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said the most
recent weekday ridership count — done in fall 2006 — puts the 80th Avenue
Station at 2,459 passengers. That figure makes it the system’s fourth-busiest
station, just behind third-place Lisle, which showed 2,472 passengers.

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