Chicago’s Metra to resume planning work on BNSF extension

May 19, 2016

A press release from Metra:

Local officials demonstrate widespread support for completing studies

(May 18, 2016) – Metra is resuming work on engineering and environmental studies to extend the BNSF Line past Aurora in Kendall County, after local officials said they strongly supported the planning work despite the challenges of securing funding to build and operate the extension.Website Insert Out of the Box Thinking copy

After local elected officials secured $7.5 million in federal funding in the mid-2000s, Metra initiated preliminary engineering and environmental assessment studies on the proposed BNSF extension from Aurora toward Montgomery, Oswego, Yorkville, and possibly Plano and Sandwich. The goal of those studies is to determine the costs and potential environmental impacts of the project so that local stakeholders in Kendall County can determine if and how they will secure the necessary capital and operating funding needed to move the project forward.

Metra suspended the studies in June 2015 to determine if there was consensus among local officials to spend the remaining $6.6 million in planning and design funds on the unfunded railroad extension rather than other infrastructure needs in the area, given Metra’s inability to fund construction of the project due to its $11.7 billion in state of good repair needs over the next decade. An order of magnitude estimate indicates the BNSF extension could cost more than $200 million.

Local leaders recently indicated that there was consensus to continue the engineering and environmental studies for the project that would require the creation of an additional dedicated funding stream provided for by Kendall County residents to cover the remaining costs of the extension.

“I am impressed by the deliberate and thoughtful way the leaders of Kendall County came together to show their support for the extension of the BNSF extension,” said Metra Chairman Martin J. Oberman. “They clearly understand the financial demands that will be facing them and I look forward to working with them in the future.”

“We are humbled that local officials are so convinced of the value of Metra service that they are willing to take on this challenge,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “We thank Senator Kirk and Congressmen Hultgren and Foster for their leadership and support of this project.”

Now that work is resuming, the two studies are expected to be completed in about 18-24 months.

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