Barrington searches for way to live with trains
Barrington must sort through train crossing opinions
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Even after a well-attended public input meeting on Thursday, Barrington officials have much weighing of opinion to do before making a decision late this fall on whether to pursue an overpass or underpass for Route 14 at the Canadian National railroad tracks near Lake Zurich Road.
And even if the Illinois Department of Transportation approves an option and identifies funding sources for it, the two-year project likely would not begin until four or five years from now, Village Manager Jeff Lawler said.
While some of the more than 500 people who attended Thursday's meeting at Barrington High School favored taking no action at all, officials cautioned them to remember not to judge the ultimate impact of CN's increasing freight train traffic by today's standards.
"I would say that as their (freight) traffic begins to double, the impacts (motorists) experience will be much more than that," Lawler said.
The stretch of Route 14 through Barrington that now takes drivers just a few minutes to navigate is projected to become a 20-minute queue in the future due to waits for longer and more frequent freight trains, he said.
Compounding the problem is that this queue will affect motorists on intersecting roads — including the lines that already form on Route 59 and Lake-Cook Road from the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
But as hundreds of residents already have recognized, neither the overpass nor underpass option is a panacea. There would be fallout.
Among the first to see this were those who received letters a couple of weeks ago informing them their homes or businesses would have to be torn down to enable one of the options.
Helen Schiewe was shocked to discover this was her fate after recently investing in major improvements to her home in the Jewel Park subdivision.
"I planned to stay there the rest of my life," she said.
Her daughter-in-law, Kathryn Schiewe, said she felt the village rushed to get people to commit to one of two options when there might be others to consider.
"It's not right. It's not what this town is about," she said.
Though an organized group of fellow Jewel Park residents strongly opposed the 30-foot-tall overpass option for its unsightliness, Kathryn Schiewe felt any kind of underpass increased the threat of flooding.
Many Jewel Park residents rejected the underpass option that village leaders considered viable — one that takes eight of their neighborhood's homes and 10 nearby businesses by shifting Route 14 to the north.
They preferred shifting the road to the south, which would instead take out 62 apartment and condominium units from the Shorely Woods subdivision.
Though this plan was shown and commented on at Thursday's meeting, it would require a decision by the project's planning committee later this year to officially declare it back under consideration, Lawler said.
In addition to claiming homes and businesses, the underpass also would require the relocation of Flint Creek and cost $55 million to $65 million to build.
The overpass option would cost $40 million to $50 million and require the loss of only one home, but inspired a more strongly negative reaction in many Thursday.
"Cheaper is not always better," nearby resident Pat Karon said.
Though eager to share her opinion with the village, Karon said she was unsure how much effect it would have after she and her husband, Tom, joined with the rest of the community to oppose CN's purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern tracks only to see it happen anyway.
"The federal government did not protect us," Tom Karon said.
Their neighbor Celeste Scheffler agreed with the Karons but felt those who opposed taking any action as a way of making CN's own expansion plans more difficult were being unrealistic.
"It has to happen. CN is going to do it anyway," Scheffler said.
"It all harks back to the old days, when the railroads were first coming through and people objected."
But even given the divided opinions that must be sifted through over the coming weeks, the sheer size of Thursday's crowd and the number of comments still coming in are of help to Barrington in getting something done, Lawler said.
They show IDOT that there is strong recognition of a problem and desire for a solution.
Written comments can still be sent to the village through May 9 at us14-cn.com.
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