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Cary Illinois Transit Oriented Development Metra Train Station

The recently adopted Downtown Cary Strategic Plan, supported by the Regional Transportation Authority’s (RTA) Community Planning program, includes recommendations to improve walkability, access to transit, and quality of life for residents of the McHenry County suburb.  

The plan, adopted by the Village of Cary in June 2021, included input from stakeholders such as residents, business owners, village staff, and McHenry County elected officials alongside representatives from regional transportation organizations including the RTA, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Metra, and Pace. The RTA Community Planning program has supported more than 200 projects since it was established in 1998 with the goals of encouraging transit-oriented development, improving transit access, and leveraging transit to enhance the local economy.  

The Downtown Cary Strategic Plan is set to guide future development with the village’s center as a hub for investment while maintaining the authentic character and charm that makes the area unique. During the public engagement process, Cary residents were asked what they envisioned for the next decade of Downtown Cary. Responses  focused on some of Cary’s strongest assets, its strategic location and transportation assets such as the Union Pacific Northwest (UP-NW) Metra line that runs through town.  

One of the goals of the plan, “Improve and enhance Downtown Cary’s Connectivity, Mobility, and Parking Systems,” focuses on strategies and actions to support the future of transportation in, to, and from the village, some of which are described below. 

Strategy: Improve the overall Downtown mobility system for all users with a focus on connectivity and accessibility

This strategy identifies implementation actions such as street extensions and wayfinding that can improve mobility in Downtown Cary for all. By extending certain streets such as Industrial Drive across Cary-Algonquin Road, an improved street network could enhance access around the busiest parts of Downtown Cary. 

Wayfinding can help orient new and infrequent visitors to Downtown Cary, while signage design can provide a stronger community identity for the area. The plan recommends developing clear and consistent signage to attract Metra and Pace riders and help pedestrians/ bicyclists to navigate Downtown.  

Strategy: Facilitate completion of all bike lanes, trails, and pedestrian improvements 

Walkability is a key component of any thriving Downtown and complementary to transit. Having comfortable and convenient sidewalk amenities and safe crossing locations is essential to improving walkability. Feedback from public engagement indicated a strong interest from residents and visitors alike in walking to, from, and within Downtown Cary. This strategy focuses on actions that can achieve those goals and foster a “Park Once” environment for the area  

Recommended action items from this strategy include working with IDOT and Metra to prioritize widening and completing sidewalks adjacent to the Metra station to help bolster multimodal travel such as bringing a bicycle on the train or walking easily from the station to Downtown. The plan also recommends adding more bicycle parking, bicycle facilities, and on-street bike lanes in the area. 

The plan suggests a partnership with McHenry County and neighboring communities could help facilitate a regional bikeway corridor along the UP-NW train line and connect the Village of Cary with the McHenry County Prairie Trail and bike paths in Lake and Cook County. 

Strategy: Facilitate improved Metra Station access and connections for Pace Bus, pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and private vehicles  

Feedback from steering committee meetings and public engagement revealed that the demand for pick-up/drop-off near transit often exceeds the spaces currently provided for it. This strategy includes actions that can alleviate this problem through a relocation and expansion of the kiss-n-ride/pick-up drop-off area that would accelerate traffic flow and circulation within the Metra parking lot. The plan also recommends a new plaza in place of the old kiss-n-ride space, which would add a dynamic public space for transit riders and visitors to explore the area. 

The plan also recommends filling sidewalk gaps along High Road, Jandus Road, and Main Street to create a continuous path with lighting, landscaping, and signage enhancements to ensure pedestrians have access to the village’s transit assets. 

The plan also includes goals to strengthen Downtown Cary’s market position, enhance the area’s physical appearance and urban design, and accurately identify opportunity sites that encourage investment and modernization to attract visitors and residents alike. Read the full plan online.

All completed projects from the RTA Community Planning program can be found on RTAMS, the Regional Transportation Authority Mapping and Statistics website.  

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