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Transportation plans would boost DeKalb County residents' Metra access

Daily shuttle bus service from DeKalb to the Metra station in Elburn is in the works as area transportation officials plan a new $17 million bus depot.

Officials with the Voluntary Action Center, which operates three bus lines and paratransit buses in DeKalb County, plan to build an 80,000 square-foot transportation hub on Barber Greene Road to house their transportation arm, TransVAC.

The new facility will be built on land DeKalb County officials donated between TAILS Humane Society and the DeKalb County Highway Department facility. It would replace the 13,000 square-foot building TransVAC currently uses on Bethany Road, which a 2010 study deemed inadequate for TransVAC’s operations.

Current TransVAC Green Line and Blue Line buses run Monday through Friday in DeKalb and Sycamore, respectively. TransVAC also operates a bus line with service to Kishwaukee Community College.

The main focus of the new depot would be storage and maintenance of TransVAC’s bus fleet. It also would include administrative offices and a parking lot large enough to accommodate new park-and-ride service.

“There’s certainly significant interest in the service,” VAC Executive Director Tom Zucker said.

About 100 parking spots would be available for commuters to take a shuttle bus to the Metra station in Elburn, Zucker said. Although officials have yet to work out the exact details, they expect to run the service to the station daily, with the nearly 19-mile one-way bus trip costing about $5.

“It’s difficult to predict how many people would use park-and-ride,” Zucker said. “But I would expect within one year of operating that parking lot would be about two-thirds full.”

DeKalb-area residents already have access to a shuttle service that runs on a more limited basis. The Huskie Bus line operates a shuttle service to and from the Elburn Metra station on Fridays and Sundays. Box office employee Mitchell Dunigan said more than 80 people use the service weekly.

Zucker said officials also were considering a shuttle that would have run to the Amtrak stop in Genoa before Gov. Pat Quinn earlier this month announced the passenger rail service between Rockford and Chicago would stop in Elgin, Huntley and Belvidere instead.

“I think it just solidifies the demand to go to Elburn,” Zucker said.

VAC officials are working with DeKalb County and the DeKalb Sycamore Area Transportation Study, the organization that oversees transportation projects. So far, they have secured about $5.5 million between city and county money.

“The transportation system they’re already providing is extremely valuable,” County Administrator Gary Hanson said. “I think VAC really needs that new facility.”

Zucker said the facility could open in late 2015 or early 2016 at the earliest. However, some aspects of the project, including the park-and-ride, would be delayed two to three years if officials don’t receive a $12 million to $14 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

Zucker said a grant announcement is expected in about three months, which is when construction would start.

If denied, they would pursue other grant opportunities, Zucker said.

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