Railroad funds Villa Park train fence

Posted Friday, October 27, 2006

Villa Park and Union Pacific will install 1,500 feet of fencing along the railroad company’s train lines in the village to deter people from crossing the tracks in unauthorized places.

The new fencing, funded entirely by Union Pacific, will span roughly five football fields beginning at Westmore Avenue and extending to the village’s border with Lombard.

It will seal off North Terrace Park from the nearby railroad.

The cost of the 6-foot-high continuous steel fencing is $67,000. The money will come from a safety and awareness initiative, Union Pacific spokesman James Barnes said.

The fencing is expected to be installed by late December.

The effort to install the fencing began in March when Village President Joyce Stupegia formed a railroad safety panel with residents, members from the police and fire departments and area state legislators.

“I didn’t want this to be an isolated committee because this is not an isolated problem,” Stupegia said.

The committee formed two weeks after 14-year-old Kristen Bowen of Villa Park was struck and killed by a train in February as she tried to cross the tracks at North Terrace Park along Ahrens Avenue between Lombard and Villa Park.

“You could feel the parent’s pain over the loss of their child,” Stupegia said. “That’s what got dedicated people like John Davis and other people so involved.”

Davis, a member of the safety committee, credited Stupegia’s leadership on this issue.

“She and I stood out there and patrolled the tracks over the summer,” Davis said. “What she’s done has got us where we are.”

Where that is, is on par with neighboring village Lombard.

Lombard trustees are to vote Nov. 2 whether to approve a similar fence that will extend along the ends of four cul-de-sacs at Chase, Highland, Ahrens and Westmore avenues.

If approved, Lombard would pay roughly $62,000 for safety fencing.

Partly because of Villa Park’s “proactive safety measures to prohibit the public from getting near the railroad tracks,” Barnes said, Union Pacific wanted to support railroad safety in Villa Park.

Those measures included new railroad warning signs and safety education training for residents

Upon learning about the company’s support for fencing, Stupegia said it was “the happiest day of my life this year.”