450 weigh in on Barrington overpass/underpass debate

More than 450 Barrington-area residents Thursday came to voice their often strong preferences on the choice between a Route 14 overpass or underpass to keep increasing freight traffic on the Canadian National railroad tracks from snarling motor traffic.

But as might have been expected from a crowd so large, the options favored outnumbered the two presented.

Many residents of the Jewel Park subdivision near the crossing favored a different variant of the underpass — one that shifts Route 14 to the south instead of to the north — even though it was already technically off the table.

Such advocates included husband and wife Richard and Lou O’Brien, whose home is among eight that would be razed for the north-shifted underpass.

They said their support for the other underpass option comes from solidarity for their neighborhood, not out of a belief it would save their home or make life next to the CN crossing livable even if they could physically stay.

They joined their neighbors in being especially opposed to any version of an overpass above the CN tracks. They said they would rather lose their home than live next to the overpass.

“I will not wake up and look at that every morning,” Lou O’Brien said. “Who wants a 30-foot-tall retaining wall in their backyard?”

Instead of eight single-family homes, the southern-shifted underpass would raze 62 of the apartment and condominium units in the Shorely Woods development. But that’s the only option apart from opposing anything that Jewel Park residents would support, said Steve Meinig, who moved in just eight months ago and has already organized his neighbors.

The overpass does have a smaller estimated cost — $40 million to $50 million — compared to the $55 million to $65 million for the underpass.

But supporters of the overpass were hard to find Thursday in the cafeteria of Barrington High School during the village of Barrington’s public input meeting.

“You can’t look at it based on a lowest-cost option. You have to look at it as the village as a whole,” said Teresa Kraegler, who lives on nearby Berry Road. “If (the overpass) goes up, I’m gone. I’ll walk away from my house if I have to.”

But fellow Barrington resident John Berquist favors doing nothing. Though both options presented are intended to mitigate the effects of CN’s increasing freight traffic, he sees them as a public investment of $50 million to make it easier for CN to do what it wants.

Barrington officials hope a clear consensus will be found among the written comments from the meeting and those that can still be posted at through May 9.

Strong public support would help persuade the Illinois Department of Transportation to do the project — likely to take two full construction seasons — and identify sources of funding for it, Barrington Village Manager Jeff Lawler said.

The underpass option for the proposed grade separation of the Canadian National railroad crossing of Route 14 in Barrington. Courtesy of village of Barrington
  Options for either a Route 14 underpass or overpass are being considered for the currently at-grade crossing of the Canadian National railroad tracks in Barrington. Samantha Bowden/
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