Committee Wants to Delay Prairie Path Underpass
Capital project talks also include cost of porous paver bricks at City Hall.
Faced with a few possible timelines for constructing an underpass beneath the Prairie Path at York Road, the Public Works Committee on Monday decided to recommend postponing the project until at least 2015.
The City Council heard a list of capital projects for 2013-2018 last week, and now each committee is beginning to review the proposed work under their purview.
The Prairie Path underpass generated much discussion among aldermen last week. Some were surprised that the idea seemed to just appear in the capital plan without much discussion. On Monday, Public Works Director Mike Hughes explained the timing to the committee and updated information presented last week.
The city has until July 1 to apply for a federal grant, administered locally by the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference, that could fund much of the design and construction of the $3 million project. The city would be responsible for about $700,000 of the cost, but it would need to commit about $150,000 now to the initial engineering phase of the work.
Hughes said a recent change in state law mandating that cars stop for pedestrians in crosswalks seems to have altered pedestrian and cyclist behavior, making them more likely to enter the intersection without stopping. But cars are slower to catch on to the requirement, he said.
Committee members wrestled with the decision. The next chance to apply for this money would be 2015. If they wait, work would not begin until about 2018.
First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf suggested waiting and asking the county to help with the project.
“This trail is used by people from a wide area,” she said.
Fifth Ward Alderman Chris Healy, who expressed support for the work last week, said he is still in favor of the project but also sees the value of waiting.
Hughes told the committee that there had been six accidents at the crossing in the past three years: Two were car vs. pedestrian, and four were between cars. He added that in any other part of the city, this kind of track record would earn the crossing a four-way stop sign.
But the committee decided to write a report to the full council recommending waiting until 2015 to apply for the grant.
Porous Brick Pavers
Another hot topic last week was the possibility of installing porous paver bricks in the City Hall parking lot. First Ward Alderman Paula Pezza and 3rd Ward Alderman Michael Bram asked the city to consider installing more environmentally friendly surfaces on city-owned lots, and City Hall is next on the list for a makeover.
Hughes reported last week that porous pavers, which would require a complete replacement of the curbs, gutters and pavement, along with the installation of underground water storage, would cost $650,000 for the City Hall lot, as opposed to about $40,000 for a traditional grind-down and re-asphalting.
Porous pavers, Hughes said, can be justifiable when a parking lot is either being installed for the first time or is part of a significant construction project.
“It's like the difference between painting a wall and tearing it down and starting over,” Hughes said, adding since the concept is no longer new, it's harder to find grants for the work.
Committee members wondered if there was a middle ground. Gutenkauf said while her “heart” was with the porous paver idea, she wondered if the best approach was to have a larger discussion of how the city wanted to implement sustainable practices in the future.
Details about each project in the 2013 capital budget are available on the city’s website. The public hearing for the budget will be held in March, with budget adoption set for the April 1 City Council meeting.