Hundreds of residents attended the final public meeting Wednesday night at the Barrington High School for the proposed Route 14 underpass designed to keep freight traffic on the Canadian National railroad tracks from causing gridlock.
At the last public meeting, held in April 2013, residents were asked if they would prefer an overpass or an underpass. The underpass won out. Since then, the project's planners -- led by Barrington's Director of Development Services Greg Summers -- have been honing their plan and gathering support for the underpass, which is estimated to cost $55 million to $65 million.
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Summers said throughout this project, the main reason to build the underpass is public safety.
"Canadian National is running trains as long as 10,000 feet long, and all four railroad crossings in Barrington are just 6,000 feet apart," Summers said. He said it could take precious minutes for police cars, fire trucks or ambulances to respond to emergency situations on the other side of the tracks.
And before long there will be more freight trains traveling through Barrington. CN has predicted up to 20 trains will travel the tracks per day by 2015, compared to the current 12 freight trains.
The intersection of Lake Zurich Road and Route 14 has no stoplight, and at least one fatal accident has occurred at that spot.
"Making a left-hand turn from Lake Zurich onto the 14 is like taking your life in your hands," Barrington Village President Karen Darch said at the public meeting.
At the last meeting, residents overwhelmingly favored adjusting Lake Zurich Road to the south so it intersects with Route 14 at a four-way intersection at Berry Street, which is currently the location of the entrance to the Barrington Area Library. At Wednesday's meeting, residents were briefed on the changes to the plan in the last year.
The plan calls for construction on Lake Zurich Road to start before work on the underpass begins. Darch said the change to Lake Zurich Road is so important that even if the underpass is not completed, the village would pursue the project separately.
Another recent change to the plan has to do with Flint Creek, a small stream that intersects Route 14 and the CN railway near the site of the proposed underpass that project planners say has a tendency to flood during heavy rains.
The plan calls for construction of a new wider creek that would cross Route 14 further west.
"The current channel is a lot narrower and can get constricted and back up," Village Engineer Jeffrey Ende said. "The proposed channel will convey more water."
Ende said the proposed channel will be 10 feet to 12 feet wide and easier for the village to maintain.
Last year CN requested that the plan include the construction of temporary train tracks that it could use while the underpass is being built. Previous plans called for CN to suspend all rail traffic while changes were made to the existing railway.
In December, the village completed a highway noise analysis along the proposed route and determined a wall should be added to the plan to shield residents living on Park and Drury lanes south of the underpass from traffic noise.
Summers said the next step for project planners is to submit their proposal, along with resident feedback, to IDOT for an environmental and design review. He said if all goes well, they will begin the project's second phase next year, in which they would secure the remaining funds, begin buying land and draft the final blueprint. Construction, which could begin in 2017, would likely take three years.
Written comments on the plan can be sent to the village until Feb. 12 at us14-cn.com.