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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.

F C January 15, 2013 at 01:10 PM
An underpass would lead to trouble because you can't see who's doing what...
Scott January 15, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Would be cheaper to just put lights and signs up for the path users, similar to that facing the drivers, to tell them they must yield for traffic when approaching the street. The rules were not designed for the drivers to stop every time someone approaches the street, but when they are in it.
Jim Court January 15, 2013 at 01:54 PM
Scott You make a very valid point.
bill trudeau January 15, 2013 at 02:57 PM
The path users already have a stop sign at every point the path crosses a street in Elmhurst, they just choose to ignore them. I'd be curious to see if there has ever been a citation issued for disobeying a stop sign on the path, similar to the ones we seem so intent on giving to people crossing the tracks before the gates are completely up. Train, car, what difference does it make?
5DecadesInElmhurs January 15, 2013 at 03:06 PM
Back when the railroads crossed York, at this exact spot, there were blink red signs to warn traffic when the train was about to cross. Signage will protect people and will not involve ripping up park land or spending huge amounts of money. Come on people! This is a contrived problem!
B Rush January 15, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Even though public sentiment is vastly against this --- alderman healy "is still in favor of the project" I hope the voters in ward 5 send Healy our of office. He does not listen to the people.
Scott Taub January 15, 2013 at 03:57 PM
I love the Prairie Path and think it'd be great to have an underpass at York Road, but not at a cost of $3 million. Even if it is mostly paid for by another entity, $3 million for such an underpass is just not worth it. There have got to be a whole lot of better uses for that money. Spend some money on increased signage and maybe some other awareness efforts.
Gigi January 15, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Hmm. Sounds like a misguided attempt at a utopia none of us can afford. I cannot imagine under what circumstances a female would feel comfortable walking in an underpass - and let's face it, day or night, it will attract a criminal element.
Dan January 15, 2013 at 05:05 PM
The city just installed a crossing system there where you push a button and signs on York Road road flash allowing the bikers or runners to pass. I've been told by a frequent Prairie Path user that it works great. If the state has millions to give out (which in reality they don't) why not give it to the school district and reduce our property taxes an equal amount. With the state providing less than 7% of the school budget it would seem to make more sense to use the money to increase the states share of the school budget back to 8.25 percent that it was about a year go. Maybe they could use it for something like busing!
5DecadesInElmhurs January 15, 2013 at 05:08 PM
There is a lot missing from this story. For example; if built, what would be the annual maintenance cost in labor, utilities, and material? There would need to be a video security system hooked into the PD. Would the tunnel be accessable 24/7? How much would be the electric bill? Is Public Works staffed enough to have a guy to mop the floor and remove the trash? Also, what exactly is the pedestrian count crossing At the PP as compared to other spots around town? A lot of unanswered questions....
Peggy Suratt January 15, 2013 at 07:09 PM
is this truly a safety issue ? if drivers are not stopping when they should, then ticket them; is it a question of bad sight lines where drivers cannot see pedestrians. if the experts at city hall say this is priority one, why did they present only one proposal, one option; and an expensive one at that. seems every one, except the consultants, are in agreement that this is too great of an expenditure in light of the problem. what about an alternative solution; the one recently proposed by a citizen. will his suggestion (an overpass) be ignored just because he comments on everything. wouldn't an overpass be less than half of the cost of an underpass. moreover, no one can hide in a well lit overpass; properly designed, an overpass can also provide a nice aesthetic, and/or advertising for community events. am i missing something ?
Rich January 15, 2013 at 07:14 PM
I know a lot of you who are posting against this don't run unless someone is chasing you - but it's about safety. 3 mil is too much and the crossing system was a good start.
Lawrence Gunther January 15, 2013 at 10:53 PM
2 ped vs. auto accidents in 6yrs...maybe we need an over/under pass at spring and prairie also(1 ped vs. auto in one week)? This is a very expensive overreaction to a situation where, even though the laws were changed, the burden to yield is still on the ped. What will be the reaction when somebody gets assaulted in the new underpass, or a kid tosses a rock at a car from the new overpass?
Elm Forest January 16, 2013 at 04:17 AM
I can't understand how any elected civil servant would vote to spend money on a frivolous project like this. It's really unbelievable. The governments are broke! Who is the government? You and me... Why isn't there a four way stop there? So what if the law states the vehicles have to give "right of way" . Make everyone stop. Then appropriate some funds (if needed and if found legal) buy and install red light cameras for the travelers on York. Then actually ticket the violators. Those funds should be then earmarked to pay for maintenance for that intersection. People, stop looking for the Federal Government to be all things to all people. Every community in this country needs to get this message. We all need to stop acting on and thinking that getting a grant from the Federal Government means spend, spend, spend.
Renee Balison January 16, 2013 at 03:35 PM
No sidewalks in the North of Elmhurst but they feel its a safety issue to spend big bucks to put an underpass for recreational users??? Kids play in the streets because they have no where else to ride their bikes. Somehow i fell the city council is out of touch and has no intention to deliver any service to the north. Who's running this scam?
Steve January 16, 2013 at 03:57 PM
Watch the council meetings. See who is representing you the right way. They are online so go back to the council meeting when the capital budget discussion took place. www.elmhursttv.com (1/07/13).
B Rush January 16, 2013 at 05:12 PM
if you watch the recent meetings there is five on a private agenda morley, healy, wagner, york, hipskind. need to get out healy and hipskind and york this time around morley is a dicianni clone just watch how like dicianni morley is glad pension pete is out
DM January 16, 2013 at 08:12 PM
In my best Alderman Gutenkauf voice: SHUT UP!
DM January 16, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Also in my best Alderman Gutenkauf voice: SHUT UP!
JJ January 25, 2013 at 01:39 PM
3 million could wisely be spent elsewhere. How many other communities have underpasses at the path? This is absurd. Get rid of anyone that approves this.
Jim Court March 07, 2013 at 04:13 AM
Peggy, I had to chuckle about your comment. I totally agree that my overactive brain could use some brakes applied but since I have been this way forever it probably won't happen. Although I was in advanced placement honors I paid absolutely no attention and probably make many grammatical mistakes. I never spell check or re-read what I have written. I enjoy your writing and learn much from you.

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