Kadner: Orland Metra lot has parking but no handicapped access
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 May 10, 2012 8:36PM
Updated: June 12, 2012 8:19AM
I’m going to call this the Metra Challenge for the Handicapped.
That’s because I recently visited a Metra station in Orland Park that has handicapped parking, but where everything but a climbing wall has been installed to make access impossible for disabled commuters.
Located near 143rd Street and LaGrange Road, the Southwest Service Line Metra station is the linchpin of Orland Park’s downtown redevelopment. I stopped by the other day to take a look at all of the work that’s going on.
There’s an upscale apartment complex under construction that’s being financed by the village. This newspaper has written a lot about that, but I was unaware of all the work taking place around the Metra station.
There’s a trench about 15 feet wide and five feet deep between the station and the boarding tracks. In addition, a former parking lot near the station has been torn up, and there’s lots of dirt piled on the site.
As a result of the construction, signs tell handicapped commuters to park in the Southwest Highway parking lot, so called because it is located just west of Southwest Highway.
Most of the able-bodied commuters using the station are also parking in that lot because it’s closest to the tracks and away from the construction activity.
As I talked to commuters on Wednesday, many mentioned that it would be nearly impossible for a disabled person to reach the Metra station from that location.
That’s because it’s about 300 feet (or a football field) from the handicapped-parking lot — across the railroad tracks and over the station platform to a makeshift, uneven gravel walkway that goes uphill to the train station.
You have to go past the platform and up to the station warming house because that’s where the parking fee machines are located. And the machines are at the farthest point possible from that gravel path, another 250 feet or so.
Once paying the parking fee, the commuters have to reverse their path back to the boarding platform.
I didn’t see a single car parked in a handicapped space on the day I visited the station.
“We don’t have any handicapped commuters boarding at that location,” a Metra spokesman said.
Orland Park, on its website, encourages the disabled to use the Metra station at 153rd Street due to the lack of handicapped accessibility at the 143rd Street station. Which, of course, makes one wonder about the need for handicapped parking at the latter.
When the construction is complete, life should be much better for all commuters using the 143rd Street station.
The trench I saw is for new tracks, which will be much closer to the station house.
The existing tracks and platform are some distance from the house — apparently because the village anticipated that the tracks would be moved to accommodate a new bridge being constructed over LaGrange Road as part of the widening of that street.
Metra trains will continue running over the old bridge until the new one is completed, and then the Southwest Service Line will operate over the new tracks and new bridge without interruption, IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said.
IDOT is paying $8.4 million to build the new bridge, tear down the old one and construct a pedestrian bridge over LaGrange Road.
It’s spending an additional
$2.3 million on the earthwork for the new tracks by the Metra station, including materials for a new platform and lighting. Metra will install the new tracks.
But why not, for now, locate the parking pay machines on the platform so commuters don’t have to climb that gravel path to the station house?
Metra has a rule against pay boxes on train platforms. A spokeswoman told me that the platforms must be clear for snow removal, and Metra also fears that pay boxes on platforms might mean commuters line up too close to the tracks, creating a hazardous situation.
Orland Park decided to put the pay boxes in the train station temporarily because it has security cameras there, and there are still parking lots located east and west of the station.
After the tracks are moved, the Southwest Highway lot will be expanded to where the old tracks used to be, creating 120 more parking spaces.
Construction at the Metra station is expected to end by fall, according to IDOT and Metra spokesmen.