The RTA Access to Transit program helps communities improve the infrastructure around their transit stations and stops, making connections for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders safer, more accessible, and more attractive. Since 2012, Access to Transit has funded 37 projects around the Chicago region for more than $20 million in total investment.
Following the 2022 Access to Transit Program, Call for Projects, the RTA awarded funding to four different Phase I engineering projects in high-need communities. Read about the projects and see maps of each below.
The RTA has awarded $53,628 to the Village of Ford Heights for improving the sidewalk network, adding concrete pads to select bus stops, and installing ADA-compliant crosswalks at key intersections surrounding the Pace Route 357. The bus route runs through the center of the village and forms a loop around the future 60-acre mixed-use New Town Center development. There are currently significant gaps in the sidewalk network that connects these surrounding areas with bus stops, and most crosswalks in the area are faded and are not ADA-compliant.
Currently, more than 50 percent of Ford Heights’ local roads lack sidewalks on either side of the road. This makes it challenging for transit users, especially seniors and people with disabilities, to safely access bus stops. The proposed improvements will enhance the real and perceived safety of accessing transit, which will encourage the community to ride.
Additionally, the village is working with partners to develop a mixed-use New Town Center that is surrounded by Pace Route 357. The development will generate more pedestrian foot traffic and provide opportunities for transit supportive development, including multi-family housing. The proposed sidewalk improvements and ADA-compliant intersections will ensure that users of the New Town Center development have adequate pedestrian infrastructure that safely connects them with transit.
“The Village is excited to work with the RTA and Pace Suburban Bus to implement sidewalk, bus shelter and intersection improvements,” said Ford Heights Mayor Charles Griffin. “These improvements will improve residents’ access to Pace Bus Route 357 by filling in sidewalk gaps and making intersections easier to navigate for people with mobility disadvantages. This project will not only improve transit access for current residents but will also support the Village’s effort to develop a walkable and transit-friendly New Town Center. We are grateful for the financial support made possible through the RTA’s Access to Transit program and plan to leverage this funding to secure additional public and private investment.”
The RTA has awarded $55,000 to the City of Harvard for pedestrian access improvements along Illinois Route 173 from Marengo Road to US Route 14, including new sidewalks, ADA crosswalks, and pedestrian access over Mokeler Creek. Currently, there are no sidewalks along Route 173, forcing pedestrians to walk on the shoulder. At the crossing of Mokeler Creek, pedestrians have to walk in the travel lanes of Route 173 to get over the creek.
The City of Harvard’s downtown area, including the Metra train station, is four blocks north of this improvement. Route 14 south is Harvard’s southern commercial district. This project will bridge those two areas. Pace Route 808, which runs between the cities of Crystal Lake, Woodstock and the City of Harvard, utilizes Ayer Street, Route 173 and Route 14 as its route through the City of Harvard. Extending the sidewalk system along Route 173 will provide increased access to these areas. Furthermore, this is the middle section of Harvard’s long-range plan to provide sidewalks all along this corridor.
“Without the help and access to the RTA program Access to Transit, the City of Harvard being a smaller community would not be able to compete with larger communities,” said Harvard City Administrator Dave Nelson. “The City of Harvard appreciates the RTA for looking out for smaller communities who may not possess the expertise to write grants in-house.”
The RTA has awarded $55,000 to the City of Harvey for improvements along Broadway Avenue in downtown Harvey. The project will include transit access improvements such as bus shelters, pedestrian improvements including ADA-compliant intersections, and new roadway bike facilities. These improvements will better provide for a multi-modal downtown Harvey and will connect the new Pace Harvey Transportation Center with Broadway Avenue.
The RTA has awarded $44,000 to the Village of Maywood for a covered bicycle shelter near the 5th Avenue Metra station served by the Union Pacific West line, heated bus shelters along 5th Avenue as served by Pace, wayfinding signage for the train station, and pavement marking improvements.
Pace Route 331 runs on 5th Avenue adjacent to the Metra station, and Pace Route 309 is located in close proximity along nearby Lake Street. The heated bus shelters will encourage ridership, and wayfinding and pavement marking improvements will offer a safer, more seamless experience for transit users.
Learn more about past Access to Transit projects on RTAMS, the RTA’s mapping and statistics website.
Eligibility and types of projects
The Access to Transit program is open to municipalities and counties that have completed, or are in the process of completing, a planning or implementation project through either the RTA Community Planning program, the CMAP Local Technical Assistance program, or other community planning efforts. The plans should specifically recommend bicycle and/or pedestrian access improvements to transit. This includes communities that have participated in corridor studies as a partner. Applicants seeking only Phase I engineering can submit projects from any adopted plan, including those outside of the RTA and CMAP programs. Applicants must have CTA, Metra, or Pace service in their community and be located within the RTA’s six-county service area (Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane, Will).
There are two types of eligible projects in the Access to Transit program. Category A includes Phase II engineering and construction for small-scale, bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements that are based on recommendations from Community Planning or LTA studies with transit-related components. Category B includes only Phase I engineering for small-scale, bike and pedestrian improvements as described under Category A. Projects should generally be based on recommendations from a previous plan. Unlike Category A, acceptable plans for Category B applicants include those completed outside of the RTA Community Planning and CMAP Local Technical Assistance programs.
Category A: Bicycle and Pedestrian Accessibility
Eligible projects must be able to demonstrate the ability to increase ridership, improve access to existing transit services, and contribute to reduced vehicle emissions. The RTA may request that applicants revise their proposals after submittal in order to align with CMAQ program requirements. The following list of improvements are eligible for Access to Transit Category A projects, either individually or combined:
ADA accessibility improvements, crosswalks, pedestrian signal heads, sidewalk connections, wayfinding signage
Bicycle infrastructure (lane striping, protected lane construction, parking, etc.)
Bus stop infrastructure, rail station warming shelters
Other innovative projects that support small-scale access improvements
Funding Guidelines for Category A
Project budget must be no greater than $1 million and no less than $150,000.
For most projects, the 20% local match required by CMAQ will be shared equally by the RTA and the applicant, with each covering 10% of the total project cost.
The RTA may provide the full 20% local match for communities that are smaller and/or have lower tax bases or median incomes based on the economic and demographic characteristics of the area served. Eligible applicants may contact the RTA to determine if they qualify for this exemption.
Phase I engineering must be funded by the applicant as it is not an eligible expense for Category A funding.
Phase I Engineering Requirements for Category A
Applications for Category A projects will be accepted if Phase I engineering is complete or preliminary planning is complete and the project can move immediately into Phase I engineering. Phase I engineering must begin immediately after the RTA confirms that the project has been selected to the Access to Transit program, with a goal of obtaining Phase I approval by the CMAQ application deadline (see Program Timeline for more details). Applicants will be removed from the RTA Access to Transit Program if Phase I Engineering is not completed by March 2023.
Phase I engineering is required to be completed in a manner that preserves eligibility for federal funding. This requires the work to be completed by local government staff or by a consulting firm hired under a Qualification Based Selection (QBS) process. These requirements are available in the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Bureau of Local Roads Manual (Chapter 5, Section 5.06) available for download on the IDOT website.
Category B: Phase I Engineering of Bicycle and Pedestrian Accessibility
In order to address a frequent barrier to securing funding and completing projects, the RTA will accept applications for Phase I engineering from municipalities of high need. Under Category B, eligible applicants can be awarded full reimbursement of the cost associated with developing Phase I engineering for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Projects must be acceptable improvements as defined under Category A. Funding is allocated exclusively for municipalities with lower tax bases or median incomes based on the economic and demographic characteristics of the area served.
Funding Guidelines for Category B
Project budget must be no greater than $55,000 and no less than $5,000.
Category B applicants seeking only Phase I engineering will receive funding directly from the RTA and will not be included in the combined CMAQ application with Category A applicants.
Completed in 2020, the Village of Brookfield, using Access to Transit funds, installed 24 covered bicycle racks at the Congress Park Metra Station and 12 such racks at the Brookfield Metra Station. These stations have some of the highest active transportation use among all stations on the BNSF line. These improvements will increase bike parking availability (a need identified in the Village’s 2020 Master Plan), leverage Brookfield's existing bicycle facilities, and improve multi-modal access to the Village’s Metra stations.
Completed in 2021, the Village of Chicago Ridge, using Access to Transit funds, installed an improved pedestrian crossing on Ridgeland Ave to better connect the Chicago Ridge Metra station with the east side of the corridor. This was a recommendation from The Ridgeland Avenue Corridor Plan, a multi-modal corridor plan for Ridgeland Avenue from 79th Street to 135th Street in the communities of Burbank, Oak Lawn, Chicago Ridge, Worth, Alsip, and Palos Heights, completed through the RTA’s Community Planning program. The improvements include high visibility crosswalks, a landscaped pedestrian refuge, signage and pedestrian gates at the railroad crossing.
Completed in 2020, the Village of Richton Park, using Access to Transit funds, installed pedestrian infrastructure along Sauk Trail, providing improved safety and accessibility in their Town Center for people walking to and from transit services. Project improvements include crosswalks, sidewalk connectors and ADA accessibility improvements in close proximity to the Richton Park Metra station and along Pace Route 362. This project was based on recommendations from the Village Comprehensive Plan completed in 2014.