Fence will separate
neighbors from tracks
Local rail advocate says
being made in
Lombard, Villa Park
As a child, Lombard
Village President Bill Mueller remembers a third railroad line near the Prairie
Path that was electric and "live" 24 hours a day, forcing residents
to travel to designated intersections.
"If you tried to go
over that thing without using a crossing, you'd get electrocuted," he
said. "Now we don't have that built-in deterrent anymore, and kids think
it's OK to take a shortcut over the tracks. So we have to do more for
The Village Board
continued its quest to address the problem during a meeting Oct. 19, when
trustees approved a proposal for erecting fencing along the south side of the
Union Pacific tracks near four residential cul-de-sacs and community parks and
A 6-foot physical
barrier, which staff members said is heavy-duty and aesthetically pleasing,
will be constructed to separate dead ends on Chase, Highland, Ahrens and
Westmore avenues from the tracks. Village officials expect the work to be
completed by December or January.
The village will award a
contract to a bidder Thursday, Nov. 2. From that point, delivery of fencing
materials is expected to take 45 days, Mueller said. After that, it's a matter
of hoping that weather conditions comply.
Village Manager Bill
Lichter said the project will cost between $70,000 and $75,000, and the money
will come out of Lombard's general fund. Staffers plan to talk to state Rep.
Bob Biggins, R-41st District, of Elmhurst about getting reimbursed, but Lichter
said the village will proceed regardless.
The move is a step
forward to combat danger zones near areas that are "child magnets," said
Ray Zukowski, a vocal railroad safety advocate who has worked with officials in
Lombard and Villa Park to address problem spots.
His own daughter,
14-year-old Kristen Bowen, was killed when she tried to cross the tracks at
Ahrens Avenue in February.
Zukowski pointed to
high-risk areas in close proximity such as schools, Lombard Commons Park,
Westmore Woods Park, a pond with toddler swings and the Iowa Community Center
with dances, sporting events and a pool.
"And then you have
these trains speeding by at 70 mph where children are tempted to hang out
at," he said. "That area has claimed too many lives, so this is a
huge victory for us."
Mueller also said the
fence needs to go up as soon as possible. When he was in the area recently, he
spotted more than 30 kids playing near a low-rise area on the Villa Park side,
which made him nervous.
Village officials have
had to work within constraints on how geographically extensive the safety
measure can be due to boundary lines with Villa Park. Mueller and Zukowski have
been instrumental in pushing for intergovernmental cooperation between the two
municipalities to address the issue.
Mueller said he spoke
with Villa Park Village President Joyce Stupegia last week to inform her of
to move forward although they don't have a timetable," he said.
"Whatever they eventually do, it'd likely extend as far east as Addison
obstacles Villa Park officials are faced with, Zukowski is confident his
nonprofit organization, Targeting Education Awareness & Railroad Safety,
will assist in securing money for the project through grants and donations from
the local business community. Zukowski hopes to see fencing there by the
In the meantime, Lombard
staff members will hammer out details of their own construction. After trustees
and public works representatives voiced concern over congregation in the 2- to
3-foot corridors between residential and the railroad safety fencing, staffers
will have to decide how to block off the area while still allowing for access
for maintenance like mowing.
To address the other
side of the prevention-education coin, Mueller started talking to fire and
police personnel last week to gather information on safety education programs already
in place. Firefighters visit preschool and kindergarten classes five to seven
times a year for safety lectures, which cover tips for railroad navigation.
"You need to
incorporate teaching this for kids at an early age, which has to be followed up
with parent reinforcement at home," Mueller said. "We've taken this
seriously from Day 1."
Jessica Young's e-mail