Gateway Transportation Center celebrated at Joliet event
The City of Joliet, joined by representatives from the public-private partnership who helped make the Gateway Transportation Center possible, celebrated Wednesday morning during a ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony.
The completion of the train station marks a milestone for the city and its intent to implement the downtown development plan adopted by the Joliet City Council in 2016.
Inside the new 10,000-square-foot, two-story train station, commuters will find Metra and Amtrak ticket offices, indoor waiting areas on both floors, an elevator, and stair access to the new Metra Rock Island and Heritage Corridor platforms.
Speakers at the event included Gov. Bruce Rauner, Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, State Sen. Pat McGuire, Illinois Department of Transportation secretary Randy Blankenhorn, former Metra CEO Don Orseno, Amtrak senior manager Joe Shacter, Pace deputy executive director of external relations Rocky Donahue, and Regional Transportation Authority executive director Leanne Redden.
“I’ve watched progress on this project as I’ve taken the train back and forth to Springfield over the years,” McGuire said. “This really has been a complex project.”
Orseno agreed, saying many years ago when the project got started, Metra noted many pitfalls, but all the hard work paid off.
“Everybody worked together,” he said. “They knew what we wanted to do. Everybody knows where transportation goes, communities grow.”
Rauner gave kudos to everyone involved with the project for doing their part to make the facility a reality and lauded the City of Joliet and Will County as the center of the transportation hub for the State of Illinois, as well as the center of the transportation hub for the United States of America.
“This shows what people can do[on a] bipartisan basis [with] every level of government coming together to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for the people of Illinois,” Rauner said. “Today, we take a major step forward in investing and improving the transportation infrastructure, here, in the City of Joliet.”
Funding for the Joliet Gateway Center came from many directions with contributions out of State of Illinois, City of Joliet, the federal government, Burlington Northern Metra and more.
“Ultimately, this is a big win for the people of Joliet [and] for the riders of Metra and Amtrak, who no longer have to cross over live tracks to board their trains everyday,” O’Dekirk said.
There are approximately 800 Rock Island riders and 200 Heritage Corridor riders who board the trains in Joliet, according to Metra spokesman Michael Gillis
“Our freight partners, Burlington Northern and the [Union Pacific-West], have also benefitted from the upgraded, modernized track and signal improvements, which allows for better rail traffic to flow through the station area,” O’Dekirk said.
Funding for Joliet bus station found
Also at the ribbon cutting and dedication event, Pace announced that it is ironing out plans with the City of Joliet to break ground on the new bus station facility next year.
“We’re excited to be part of this multimodal center,” Donahue said. “In fact, we’re finalizing plans right now with the City of Joliet.”
Pace has committed $7.5 million to help advance the project.
“We are looking forward to moving forward on the next phase of construction for the new bus station facility at some point in the near future, and working with Pace to make this truly a multimodal transportation hub,” O’Dekirk said.
Pace has 12 routes that serve Joliet, and many of them connect to the train station, enabling riders to access Metra.
“Through the first three months of this year, here, in our Heritage Division, we’ve provided nearly 300,000 trips,” Donahue said. “Ridership is up here out of our Heritage Division, and that is bucking regional and national trends where bus ridership is down, but, here, in Joliet, it’s up. We know when we build a new station, [ridership will] grow even more. … We look forward to celebrating with you on the opening of the new bus station.”