A pedestrian bridge could become part of Mundelein's long-awaited downtown redevelopment.
The bridge -- proposed to go over the Canadian National Railway tracks near McKinley Avenue and the town's train station -- would let Metra commuters and area residents cross the tracks more safely, Village Administrator John Lobaito said Tuesday.
Officials also hope it will encourage people to visit the existing shops and other businesses in the downtown area, as well as the new ones planned for the neighborhood.
"It's going to serve a twofold purpose," Lobaito said.
The train station, on Archer Avenue east of Seymour Avenue, is at the epicenter of a planned redevelopment of the area. A new village hall, retail buildings and public green space are among the features included in the proposal.
The cost of the downtown project has been estimated at $10 million. Revenue will come from a loan, money that's been accumulating in a special tax fund for the area and from other sources, officials have said.
Mundelein officials have wanted permission from Metra to build a traditional, street-level pedestrian crossing near the station for a few years, but the agency has refused, Lobaito said.
Right now, people who want to get across the tracks near the station must walk north to Hawley Street, cross and then head back south to reach the other side.
Not willing to concede, village administrators asked consultants with Farr Associates, one of the firms working on the downtown project, to investigate building a pedestrian-only tunnel beneath the tracks or a bridge above it, Lobaito said.
The firm found utility lines beneath the tracks, Lobaito said, so a bridge "is the only alternative."
The village board on Monday hired a consulting firm called HR Green to start designing such a structure. The first-phase work, consisting of studying whether a bridge is feasible, will cost $130,245.
Accessibility for people with disabilities and the potential height of the bridge are among the issues that need to be investigated, Lobaito said.
The money for the study will come from Canadian National, under an existing agreement with the village, Lobaito said. Canadian National has given Mundelein $500,000 total for the entire bridge project, according to a village memo.
If officials opt to build the bridge, they will request federal funding for the project, according to documents.
HR Green has been involved with similar projects in Lombard and Wheaton, documents indicate.
Ed Sullivan was the only trustee who voted against the contract with HR Green. He acknowledged a crossing is needed but balked at the cost of a bridge, which he estimated at $4 million or $5 million.
"I don't see any point in doing phase-one engineering for a project we can't pay for," Sullivan said during an interview Tuesday.
The engineering work should be completed by the end of the year, Lobaito said.