Should Glen Ellyn Metra commuters bypass the train tracks via a pedestrian bridge or a tunnel near downtown?
Glen Ellyn trustees have differing opinions, but hope a preliminary engineering study into both structures can shed light on costs and help settle the debate.
Either crossing -- under or over the tracks -- could tie into a larger possible project to replace or remodel the downtown train station, improve accessibility for pedestrians and reconfigure parking.
The board is expected to hire CDM Smith, a firm that is designing a similar project at the Elmhurst Metra station, to complete the initial engineering review. Under a proposed agreement with CDM, the village would pay the firm up to roughly $216,000.
The decision on whether to proceed to more detailed designs would fall to the next board with three new trustees who will take their seats after the April election.
"I look at this as we're going to agree to spend this money to be prepared to allow the next board to make the most educated decision," said Village President Alex Demos, who declined to run for a second term, per political tradition in Glen Ellyn.
The study could take a year to 15 months, but some trustees urged the firm to expedite the work. The review would include a survey of commuters and business owners about the improvements.
CDM's architectural consultants would prepare conceptual plans for a bridge, tunnel, renovation of the train station and a new building, creating a "menu" of options for the village. And engineers would deliver a so-called project development report for initial approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration based in part on parking and crash data and an environmental assessment.
Completing the first round of an engineering study also would allow the village to qualify for grants that could fund most of the construction.
Union Pacific Railroad officials have indicated they are fine with either the pedestrian bridge or tunnel, Demos said.
"UP and Metra don't necessarily have a preference of one or the other because either way, it's going to be the village's responsibility moving forward, and hopefully we leverage that funding," Village Manager Mark Franz recently told the board.
Trustee Diane McGinley, who is running unopposed to succeed Demos as village president, favors a pedestrian bridge based on a feasibility study from about four years ago when she previously served on the board. Crossing the bridge would likely be a shorter distance for commuters than traveling the length of a tunnel, McGinley said.
She also wanted engineers to study the bridge instead of both structures.
"We've already vetted through all that, and nobody liked the underpass, even the look of it, so what I would like to do is minimize the scope," she said.
Building a bridge near the west side of the station could cost roughly $3 million, while a tunnel could cost roughly $7 million to $9 million, according to previous estimates. But a construction method used at other stations could make an underpass "much less expensive" than what past studies have estimated, CDM representatives told the board. They also said IDOT's review alone would take at least six months.
Opponents of the bridge say the height could dwarf the existing, one-story, 2,500-square-foot station. They also think hurried commuters would rather go through a tunnel than climb stairs or wait for an elevator to reach the top of a bridge.
Trustee Mark Senak expressed support for the study but expects either structure could have a "detrimental effect" on the aesthetics of the downtown.
"Generally speaking, an underpass is less obtrusive, so I favor that right now," Senak said.
A board vote to approve the agreement with CDM has not yet been scheduled.