Lombard pushes plan for fence along railroad tracks forward

By Michael Wamble

Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 Lombard could have new fencing along the Union Pacific railroad bordering four cul de sacs as a means to restrict illegal and dangerous cut-throughs in areas other than designated crossings.

Trustees approved moving the plan forward, which would entail covering blocks with dead-ends to the rails at Chase, Highland, Ahrens and Westmore Avenues.

The plan could come up for a final vote in mid-November.

Roughly 60 people, supporters of a plan for a six-foot high, steel and continuous fencing, attended Thursday night’s village board meeting.

Outside the meeting hall rested a large placard with the face of a smiling young girl.

In Feb. 2006, Kristen Bowen, of Villa Park, was hit by a train and killed while trying to cross the rails. She was 14.

Ray Zukowski, Kristen’s dad, lauded Lombard trustees for moving forward with a plan to place fencing along the railroad.

At times, communities where people have been hit by trains express their concerns and let the issue fade away, said Zukowski, of Lombard.

“And you don’t hear about it again until the next person goes kerplunk,” Zukowski said.

“For some of us it doesn’t go away,” Zukowski said. “Certainly not for the victims’ families; certainly not for those who know their deaths could be prevented.”

Prevention, he said, means more than railroad safety education.

“That’s it?” Zukowski said. “It stops with education? I think we can do better than that.”

Nicole Bobor, who lives on Ahrens Avenue, agreed that fencing was needed “to reroute them to cross at a safe crossing with lights and sounds.”

A preliminary estimate discussed by the village’s transportation and safety commission put the fencing project at a cost estimate of $60,000.

The village would first have to send the project out for final bidding.

If the process continues, ground construction for fencing could begin as soon as late December.

With a commitment to this project expected to be made by Lombard in November, Village President William Mueller requested members of the grassroots safety group redirect their efforts toward pushing Villa Park to build a similar fencing barrier.

In regard to Villa Park, Zukowski said a current lack of funding would delay any formal fencing plans.

Zukowski said he would begin efforts through a recently created nonprofit group to raise money from area businesses for such fencing.

Mueller said any fundraising should not include soliciting any Lombard businesses.

“We had no money set aside for this,” Mueller said in regard to Lombard. Lombard businesses already paid for fencing through the village’s taxpayer general fund.

“You’re going to have to visit our friends in Villa Park to find out how they can help,” Mueller said.

“We’ve already been working with Villa Park,” Zukowski said.

Yet up until Thursday, Zukowski said, fencing supporters concentrated their campaign within Lombard.

“Tomorrow we’ll focus on Villa Park and the safety commission and see where we go from there,” Zukowski said.

 

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Herald

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