CHICAGO (CBS) — Metra doesn’t have enough money to fix what’s breaking, But that’s not stopping the commuter rail agency from studying a possible extension in the far southwest suburbs.
The extension would go to Oswego, which is in Kendall County and is not even a part of the six-county Regional Transportation Authority service area. Metra chief executive officer Alex Clifford said that $1.8 million in preliminary engineering and federally-mandated alternatives analysis costs are being financed by a federal earmark obtained by then-U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.).
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“We are being compensated for our time,” Clifford said. “We are charging all of our time associated with taking the lead on this (to the earmark). There is no Metra money or sales tax money being used on this. We’ve been very careful about that.”
The two-stop extension also would include an intermediate station in Montgomery, which is in Kane County.
Clifford said that, by law, Metra cannot spend any of its or RTA money on construction or operating subsidies in Kendall County unless the county opts to join the RTA. It also is willing to build and operate the service if those costs are underwritten.
Currently, the city of Oswego pays Pace to provide rush hour-only express bus service to and from the Aurora Metra terminal. A study conducted last fall for the RTA concluded that, as a result, Pace makes a profit on its Route 907/Oswego service.
Metra has not deviated from that stand during its 28-year existence, despite inquiries over the years from boosters who have sought to extend Metra-operated service to DeKalb, Rockford, Racine and/or Milwaukee.
Metra contracts to provide service to Kenosha on the Union Pacific North line, but that is considered a “legacy” terminus that existed long before Metra was born. The RTA study also determined that the service between Zion and Kenosha is profitable.