Lombard OKs railroad fence

Posted Friday, November 03, 2006

Lombard trustees voted unanimously Thursday night to install 6-foot high, 8-foot wide fencing that will run along Union Pacific rail lines, stretching from 132 Western Avenue to Lombard’s limits on Westwood Avenue.

The fencing, which will cost Lombard approximately  $73,370, will serve as a safety barrier to prevent illegal cut-throughs across the railroad

Roughly 1,500 feet of fencing will be installed on the southern side of the Union Pacific rails, covering four cul de sacs that back up against the tracks on Westmore, Highland, Aherns and Chase Avenues.

Another 250 feet of fences on the north side of the tracks will be installed from Westwood to Prairie Avenue.

While the project will make potentially dangerous crossings difficult, but not impossible, railroad safety advocate Ray Zukowski was pleased by the board’s vote.

“Let’s get it done,” Zukowski said. “I feel very positive about this. This is huge.”

For Zukowski, personal conviction has driven him to create public changes in the name of railroad safety.

Zukowski’s daughter, Kristen Bowen, was killed earlier this year trying to cross the rails. She was 14.

Lombard’s efforts, twinned with that of neighboring Villa Park, Zukowski said, could become a model for other communities on how to address railroad safety issues.

“We’re looking at the beginning of something big here,” Zukowski said.

Villa Park officials announced Oct. 27 that they would receive roughly $60,000 in upfront funding from Union Pacific railroad company to pay for 1,500 feet of safety buffer fencing, rather than dip into village general funds. The deal between Villa Park and Union Pacific had been in the works for months.

Lombard staff members say they too have an indication from Union Pacific that the railroad company will participate in funding its project.

The reason Villa Park has already received a financial go-ahead and Lombard has not is because each village requested support from two different money pools, Public Works Director Wes Anderson said.

Villa Park’s help came from Union Pacific’s safety enforcement arm, while Lombard’s money will likely come from Metra controls, a key federal grant.

The level of participation the railroad company will provide Lombard had not yet been determined.