Lombard takes Villa Park to task over fencing at railroad tracks

By Kathryn Grondin | Daily Herald Staff



Some Lombard elected officials are questioning their Villa Park counterparts' dedication to railroad safety.

Specifically, Lombard trustees are raising concerns about the lack of fencing along the south side of the railroad tracks between Westmore and Addison avenues.

"It's absolutely deplorable," Lombard Trustee Richard Tross said during a recent board meeting.

After Lombard teenager Kristen Bowen was killed in February 2006 while crossing the railroad tracks to get to a Villa Park park, a movement ensued to install barriers to deter people from crossing outside designated areas.

Villa Park officials spearheaded the effort, forming a committee of concerned officials, residents, Metra and Union Pacific representatives. Residents brought their plight to Lombard officials who responded by getting necessary permission from private property owners and installing fences along the tracks up to the village's eastern boundary -- Westmore Avenue.

Villa Park installed a fence along the northern side of the tracks near the accident site at Terrace View Park, but such a barrier is absent east of Westmore near some row houses. Villa Park officials admit that area has not been their focus.

"I find it ironic," Tross said. "We react and put up fences on both sides (of the tracks) ... yet our neighbors have yet to address the problem."

Lombard officials say they are concerned because they have seen a few dozen children playing outside the row houses next to the tracks.

Tross said he saw holes in the fence near a school and recreation building along the tracks near Addison Avenue.

A 13-year-old Villa Park girl died when she was hit by a train in March 2004 while walking on the tracks near Jefferson Middle School and the Iowa Community Center, where a large hole existed in a chain-link fence. A worn path in grass on either side evidenced it was a common shortcut for students.

"We got the job done," Village President William Mueller said. "They have not followed through."

Villa Park officials say their efforts stalled after erecting the initial stretch of fence because of delayed state funding.

Villa Park Village President Joyce Stupegia said one $30,000 state grant just came through and another is forthcoming. The village soon will solicit bids for fence along the north side of the tracks from Addison to Ardmore avenues, Stupegia said.

Villa Park isn't planning to install a fence on the south side near Westmore, in part, because the land is privately owned, Stupegia said. Instead, the village is focusing on popular cut-through areas, she said.

"We are making progress," Stupegia said. "It's one step at a time. This is a very expensive venture for us."


                                                                                                 Daily Herald