Lombard RR fencing receives final approval

Village, Villa Park
using same company for safety barriers

The Lombard Village Board took the final step Nov. 2 in making railroad safety fencing along a dangerous stretch of tracks a reality, authorizing its purchase and installation and looking at a December or January project completion date.

Trustees unanimously voted to award a bid to West Chicago-based Peerless Fence Co. in the amount of $73,370 to erect a 6-foot high, heavy-duty barrier that will obstruct access for pedestrians trying to illegally cross the railroad without traveling to designated spots. The fence will be constructed along the south side of the Union Pacific Railroad line to block off four residential cul-de-sacs -- Chase, Highland, Ahrens and Westmore avenues -- that dead-end on property abutting the tracks.

"It's fantastic. Everything we'd hoped for," said Ray Zukowski, a vocal railroad safety advocate who has worked with officials in Lombard and Villa Park to address problem locations. "The sooner they get it up, the sooner residents will be more at ease."

In February, his daughter, 14-year-old Kristen Bowen, was killed when she tried to cross the tracks near Ahrens Avenue. Ever since, Zukowski has made it his life's work to make sure other families aren't faced with the same tragedy.

He said seeing the fencing project at the Lombard-Villa Park boundary come to fruition was particularly satisfying since its the most personal item to check off of his ever-growing to-do list.

According to Zukowski, there was some discussion of funding concerns at the meeting. Although Public Works Director Wes Anderson said the fencing will be installed with or without outside revenue sources, some trustees wanted to ensure that village officials were following every lead for potential grant money where the project may meet eligibility requirements.

Officials in neighboring Villa Park recently found out the village will receive about $70,000 out of a Union Pacific capital fund for safety enhancements on the north side of the tracks. Lombard officials similarly requested financial assistance in September but from a different money pot and haven't yet received approval in writing, Anderson said.

"I'm told they won't say 'no,' though," he added.

The project in Lombard won't be delayed pending notification, but village officials hope they will be reimbursed so they won't have to dip into the village's general fund.

James Barnes, Union Pacific spokesman, said he is unaware of any talks with Lombard officials but that the fencing would fall within the scope of safety funds meant to prevent trespassing. Metra spokesman Tom Miller did not return phone calls.

Aside from the 1,500 feet of fencing on the south side of the line, an additional 250 feet will be erected on the north side of the tracks from Westwood Avenue to the home directly to the west on Prairie Avenue.

According to Zukowski, Peerless has a contract with Villa Park as well, so joint efforts between the two villages will be easier to coordinate and the aesthetics will be seamless.

Jessica Young's e-mail address is:
jyoung@libertysuburban.com