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Joliet train station lauded, bus depot next

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Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to a gathering of state and local officials Wednesday during a grand opening ceremony at the Joliet Gateway Center in Jolie. Rauner also announced plans to build a bus station next year to accompany the train station.[]

Gov. Bruce Rauner joined Joliet on Wednesday in a celebration of the city’s new train station and promised a bus station is next.

Rauner and a Pace official said money is coming for the bus station, which had been put on hold as funding ran out for the Joliet Gateway Center after a realignment of railroad tracks and construction of the new train station – a project that has been in the works for eight years.

The two-story, 10,000-square-foot train station opened April 11 – the crowning moment so far for the Joliet Gateway Center, which has replaced Union Station as the center of public transit in Joliet.

“This was a big team effort to make this center a reality – one of the best transportation centers in the state of Illinois,” Rauner said.

Rauner was among a parade of speakers at the event, including Mayor Bob O’Dekirk; state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet; and representatives from Metra, Amtrak, the Regional Transportation Authority and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Those agencies have been part of the project to not only build the new train station, but also realign downtown railroad tracks outside the station to eliminate a bottleneck for freight trains and create safer boarding platforms for rail commuters.

“What you’re seeing here today is a great example of a public-private partnership,” O’Dekirk said. “It’s also a win for our freight partners.”

The Union Pacific and BNSF railroads contributed about $2 million to the project.

The state provided a $30 million grant and, Rauner said, also provided Metra with $7.5 million spent on the Joliet Gateway Center.

The entire project so far has cost
$51 million.

Rocky Donahue, deputy executive director for external relations, said Pace plans to put $7.5 million for the Joliet bus station in its budget for next year.

“All indications are there are no speed bumps to that being in the budget,” he said.

Donahue said bus station construction could start next year.

But Lisa Dorothy, the city’s project manager for the Joliet Gateway Center, said construction may not begin until 2020.

“We’ll start construction whenever we get the funds,” Dorothy said, noting Pace money will come from the federal government, and it will not be immediately available once it is in the Pace budget.

The $7.5 million will cover the cost of construction, Dorothy said.

Rauner is the second governor to visit Joliet to speak on the project.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn was in town in 2010 to announce the project and the $30 million state grant to fund it.

Don Orseno, former chief executive officer of Metra, described the project as one in which “there were a lot of pitfalls.”

“Many of us started this project when we didn’t know if it would come to fruition,” Orseno said.

It’s not over yet, Rauner noted.

“We’ve got more to do,” the governor said. “And I promise you, we’re going to get that bus station redeveloped and built, and the state is going to participate.”