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 46 projects around the Chicago region for more than $25.5 million in total investment. Applications for the 2023 Call for Projects are open October 16 through December 15. APPLY NOW.
The Access to Transit program is open to municipalities, counties, and the Service Boards (CTA, Metra, and Pace) that have completed, or are in the process of completing, a planning study that specifically recommends bicycle and/or pedestrian access improvements to transit. While projects that stem from recommendations from any planning study are eligible, projects stemming from recommendations from studies completed through the RTA’s Community Planning program and CMAP’s Technical Assistance program are given priority. This includes municipalities that have participated as a project partner in corridor studies led by other agencies, such as the Service Boards, or a county. Applicants must have transit service in their community and be located within the RTA’s six-county service area (Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry, Kane, and Will).
The RTA seeks applications that will fund Phase II Engineering and Construction of small- scale bike and pedestrian infrastructure improvements that are recommendations from a previous plan. 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 following list of improvements are eligible for funding:
ADA accessibility improvements, crosswalks, pedestrian signal heads, sidewalk connections, wayfinding signage
Bicycle infrastructure (lane striping, protected lane construction, parking, etc.)
Bus stop infrastructure (concrete pads, shelters, etc.)
Mobility hub elements (co-location and installation of multi-modal infrastructure)
Sidewalks and sidewalk connections
Rail station improvements (warming shelters, etc.)
Wayfinding signage (inter-transit agency transfers and other signage with a focus on transit access)
Other innovative projects that support small-scale access to transit improvements
The RTA may request that applicants revise their proposals after submittal to better align with CMAQ program requirements. Projects related to commuter parking are not eligible for funding unless parking changes are needed in the context of improved pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities.
Project budgets must be no greater than $1 million and no less than $150,000.
With most projects, the 20% local match required by the CMAQ program will be equally shared between the RTA and the applicant, with each contributing 10% of the total project budget.
The RTA may provide the full 20% match rate for smaller municipalities and those with 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
Phase I Engineering is not an eligible expense for CMAQ funding and must be completed or underway by applicants applying for Phase II and/or construction funding. If not already complete, Phase I engineering must begin immediately after the RTA confirms that the project has been selected into the Access to Transit program, with a goal of obtaining a Phase I Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) determination by November 2024.
Applicants risk limited funding awards or removal from the RTA Access to TransitProgram if Phase I Engineering is not completed by November 2024.
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 IDOT Bureau of Local Roads Manual (Chapter 5, Section 5.06) available for download on the IDOT website.
Applications for Phase I Engineering Only
To address a frequent municipal barrier to completing Phase I Engineering, the RTA will accept applications for Phase I Engineering funding from municipalities of moderate need or higher. Eligible applicants can be awarded full reimbursement, up to $55,000, of the cost associated with developing Phase I Engineering for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. Projects must be eligible improvements as defined above, and Phase I Engineering is allocated exclusively for municipalities with lower tax bases or median incomes based on the economic and demographic characteristics of the area served. These projects will not be included with the CMAQ application for projects seeking funding for Phase II Engineering and Construction. However, once the Phase I Engineering is complete, applicants can apply in a future round of Access to Transit funding for Phase II Engineering and Construction.
Funding Guidelines for Phase I Engineering Only
Project budgets must be no greater than $55,000 and no less than $5,000.
Applicants seeking only Phase I engineering will receive funding directly from the RTA and will not be included in the combined CMAQ application with applicants who are awarded Phase II Engineering and Construction funds.
To determine if municipalities qualify as moderate or higher need, the RTA relies on CMAP’s Community Cohorts grouping tool, which measures the level of local capacity and technical assistance needed for communities in the region. Municipalities and City of Chicago Community Areas in cohorts 2, 3, and 4 are eligible for the local match assistance described above and are eligible to apply.
Project Selection Process
RTA staff and representatives from the Service Boards and CMAP will review all applications. Applications will first be screened for eligibility and then selected based on the project’s readiness, ability to increase ridership, local support, and feedback from the Service Boards and CMAP.
If a project application is selected for the Access to Transit program and the RTA secures CMAQ funding, the applicant (sponsor) is then responsible for working with IDOT to complete Phase II Engineering and oversee the project to completion. The RTA requires all project sponsors to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that confirms the local match funding arrangement and the program standards. Project sponsors are required to front the 20% match payments and will be reimbursed by the RTA for the predetermined local match contribution according to the invoicing process established in the IGA.
Phase I Engineering only awardees will enter into an IGA with the RTA to confirm the funding arrangement and the project standards. Once an IGA has been executed, the applicant can begin procuring engineering services. Applicants are required to front engineering expenses and then seek reimbursement by the RTA according to the invoicing process established in the IGA after receiving approval from the RTA.
Access to Transit Call for Projects
Open call for projects on October 16
Applications due on December 15
January – February 2024
Application review and selection; notify all applicants of status
RTA executes IGA’s with successful Phase I applicants, who then begin the work
CMAQ Call for Projects (tentative)
CMAQ call for projects opens October 14
November – December 2024
RTA finalizes CMAQ application on behalf of selected applicants December 13
CMAQ program of projects released for public comment
CMAQ program of projects finalized
2022 Call for Projects
Following the 2022 Access to Transit Program, Call for Projects, the RTA awarded funding to nine different projects throughout the region. Read about the projects and see maps of each below.
The RTA has awarded $150,999 to the Village of Bellwood to remove and replace curb ramps and blended sidewalk areas to comply with ADA standards in 21 locations. Locations selected focus on those areas traveled by residents to access the Bellwood Metra station and Pace bus stops within the Village. The project will use $120,799 in CMAQ funding and $30,200 in RTA funds.
The RTA has awarded $1 million in construction funding to the Village of Berkeley for a sidewalk network to provide access from residential neighborhoods south of St. Charles Road to Pace Bus Route 313. Phase II Engineering provided via Invest in Cook. The project will use $800,000 in CMAQ funding, $100,000 in RTA funding, and $100,000 in local match funds.
The RTA has awarded $585,512 in construction funding to the Village of Cary to develop the Depot Plaza in downtown Cary, as envisioned in the Cary Downtown Strategic Plan. Improvements include an open-air plaza with artificial turf, shelter for bicyclists and pedestrians waiting for the MCRide bus service, ride sharing, taxis, and outbound Metra service, modifications to the sidewalk to increase walkability and improve pedestrian safety, built in planters to add color and character, and new benches. The project will use $468,410 in CMAQ funding, $58,551 from RTA funds, and $58,551 in local match funds.
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.”
Harvard (Phase I Engineering)
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.”
Harvard (Phase II Engineering and Construction)
The RTA has awarded $360,000 in Phase II engineering and construction funding to the City of Harvard for pedestrian access improvements along Marengo Road and Ayer Street. This project will provide new sidewalks, ADA crosswalks, and a Pace Bus shelter to better connect residents to the Harvard Metra Station and the 808 Pace Bus. The project will use $288,000 in CMAQ funding and $72,000 in RTA funds.
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.
The RTA has awarded the Village of Plainfield $921,790 in Phase II engineering, ROW, and construction funds to construct a 0.6-mile extension of a 10' wide shared-use path along the south side of 143rd Street from Van Dyke Road to Wallin Drive. Wayfinding signage to the Plainfield Park-n-Ride and downtown Plainfield will be implemented along the route. The project will use $737,432 in CMAQ funding, $92,179 in RTA funds, and $92,179 in local match funds.
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.
Completed in 2023, the Village of Melrose Park installed various pedestrian improvements to the Broadway Avenue corridor, north of the Melrose Park Metra station. Improvements include a high-visibility crosswalk with curb bump outs, relocation of a bus stop with an added bus shelter, and covered bicycle parking at the Metra station. Project improvements serve pedestrians accessing the Metra station and Pace routes 303, 309, and 313. This project was based on the RTA funded Melrose Park Broadway Avenue Corridor Plan that was adopted in 2015.