Those who use Cary’s Metra station could experience an easier and warmer time as they wait for trains once the new station depot officially opens later this week.
Eric Morimoto, Cary’s director of public works, said the village is targeting a Friday morning opening for the new station.
Construction on the structure started about a year ago. It cost about $3.3 million and includes a new 1,400-square-foot station building, which replaces a structure built in 1942, as well as a new 300-square-foot warming shelter on the station’s inbound platform. Boarding platforms also were replaced as part of the project.
The new station was funded with $2 million in federal capital dollars obtained by Metra and $400,000 in commuter parking lot funds from Cary. Metra paid for the new platforms, while the village paid for the relocation of utilities and fiber optic lines.
The planning process for the Metra station started in 2016, Morimoto said.
At a ribbon-cutting for the station Wednesday, Ken Koehler, a member of the Metra Board of Directors; Metra CEO Jim Derwinski; Cary Mayor Mark Kownick; McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks; state Sen. Dan McConchie; and U.S. Rep. Sean Casten touted the benefits of the new station and its effect on the community.
“There’s been a lot of patience that’s been needed; this is a complicated project,” Derwinski said. “But it’s great to have it here.”
About 900 passengers board at the Cary station every weekday, according to Metra. The Union Pacific Northwest Line, which Cary is on, is Metra’s second-busiest line.
Oftentimes, Derwinski said, new stations become the center point of a municipality.
“This was all done for the common good for our commuters,” Kownick said. “This is going to be the heart and soul of our downtown.”
Metra spokesman Michael Gillis said the company does not have any specific plans for more work on the Cary station right now, but it is performing various improvements on stations system-wide. This includes looking at things such as parking and signage, as well as installing warming centers in all Metra stations.
Algonquin resident Taylor Kennedy uses Metra to travel to work four days a week. Although it’s been “fun” to see the construction happening, he said it’s nice to have the platform open again.
“It’s nice to have something on this side [of the tracks] at all,” he said, adding that before the new building was constructed, there was only a “little hut” and people had to shield themselves from the wind. “It’ll be nice to have a nicer area where we can stay, especially on those cold, snowy days.”
Michael Shipley, owner of Conscious Cup Coffee Roasters in Cary, directly across from the station, said he is excited about the new structure opening.
“We know how important a good train station is to downtown,” he said.
Although Conscious Cup still is relatively new and building its customer base, Shipley anticipates receiving a good chunk of business from commuters, especially as the coffee shop opens at 5 a.m.
“We expect that probably about 30% of our business will be morning commuters,” he said.
Brett Psenka, a bartender at the nearby Kelli’s Cuckoo’s Nest, 100 Crystal St., said the bar receives a fair amount of business from people coming on and off the trains.
The new station looks “great,” he said.
“It took them a little while to do it ... but it takes a little while to get something nice put up,” he said.
Psenka said Kelli’s receives a lot of customers from “train crawls,” where groups ride the train to visit area bars.
“I think people will be inclined to get off and support local businesses with a nicer train station,” he said.