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The call for projects for RTA’s Access to Transit program is open now through May 20, 2022, giving local governments the opportunity to apply for funding for small-scale capital projects that improve access to the regional transit system for pedestrians and bicyclists. Launched by the RTA in 2012, Access to Transit provides funding for projects like construction and improvement of sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, bus and rail warming shelters, and covered bike parking at transit stations. 

When it began, Access to Transit only funded Phase II engineering and construction, which meant the program was used by municipalities with the resources to complete Phase I engineering on their own. To expand the program and increase equitable infrastructure investment, the RTA gave applicants a “Category B” option beginning in 2020 and awarded RTA funds to smaller, high need communities for Phase I engineering support. This option will once again be available to 2022 applicants. 

Harvard City Administrator David Nelson applied for Phase I engineering funds in 2020. Harvard has a population of less than 10,000, but it is also home to the terminus Union Pacific Northwest Metra station and is along the #808 Pace Suburban Bus route connecting to Woodstock and Crystal Lake. Phase I engineering for bus shelter construction and improved sidewalk connections was going to cost nearly $50,000—a prohibitive amount for a city of this size. 

“Since 2018, we’d been talking back and forth with CMAP and the RTA about how it’s unfair for smaller communities to compete for this money if Phase I engineering wasn’t on the table,” Nelson said. “The funding for Phase I was very helpful to allow us to compete now for construction dollars. It really allows these smaller communities to get in the game.” 

Nelson said in addition to Phase II engineering and construction for the first portion of this project, they’ll be applying this year for Phase I engineering for even more bus shelters and sidewalk connections down their commercial district. Easy access to transit is vital to Harvard’s economy, and improved connections to Metra and Pace stops will make more locals aware of their options beyond personal vehicles. 

“There are a lot of gaps in the sidewalks getting in and around the train station; it’s really a safety issue,” Nelson said. “And going up and down the highways (US Rte. 14 and IL Rte. 173), there are no sidewalks at all, so we have people walking on the shoulder of the highway. These sidewalk connections are important for getting people on a bus or a train in a safe fashion.” 

Access to Transit applications will be accepted through May 20 from municipalities with CTA, Metra, or Pace service located within the RTA’s six-county service area (Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties). Learn more. 

To date, Access to Transit has funded 37 projects in communities throughout the region for a total investment of roughly $22.5 million in federal, RTA, and local funds. Detailed information on past projects is available on RTAMS.org. 

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