RR fencing plan close
to reality in Lombard

After holding a joint meeting Oct. 10 to discuss differences on railroad safety approaches, Lombard's Public Works and Transportation & Safety committees voted to recommend that the Village Board install heavy-duty fencing along its Union Pacific tracks.

If approved, the move would provide a 6-foot physical barrier to deter illegal pedestrian crossings at the track and force people to find a designated area to traverse the dangerous rails.

Village President Bill Mueller and Public Works Director Wes Anderson said they expect the proposal to pass when it comes before the board Thursday, Oct. 19.

"It went well, but we have a long way to go," 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 Aherns Avenue in February.

The fencing material would be durable and require little maintenance and is optimal because it doesn't contain any grooves to scale with hands or feet for those trying to hop over it, Zukowski said.

Four residential cul-de-sacs dead end on Chase, Highland, Westmore and Aherns avenues, which abut the tracks, and the fencing stretch would extend the entire right of way from Chase to the east village boundary.

Both committees have been in discussions about effective safety methods since the spring, and several alternatives were considered.

Different physical concepts presented to the committees included sign postings, cul-de-sac fencing, one continuous fence line and a thorny hedge landscaping obstruction, although Anderson said shrubbery was ruled out because it's too easily penetrable and would take years to fully grow in.

But public works representatives wanted instead to pursue education and enforcement to address the root of the railroad-pedestrian problem.

Despite differing opinions, the continuous fencing measure won out in a 9-3 vote.

Initial cost estimates placed the fencing price tag at about $60,000 to cover what translates into about three and a half blocks, but suggested changes to the proposal will inflate the amount to about $75,000, Anderson said.

Mueller expected the work to start within 45 to 60 days after receiving a green light but voiced frustration over boundary lines that keep Lombard from comprehensively attacking the issue.

"Lombard has moved forward, and we don't see that coming from Villa Park," he said. "The original goal was to have some intergovernmental cooperation so that we could extend the barrier together."

Villa Park is expected to unveil new warning signs to be posted near tracks at 1 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13.

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