Des Plaines will study pedestrian underpass below S-curve
Des Plaines will be repairing more sidewalks -- and examining the feasibility of building a new one by the city's infamous Northwest Highway S-curve -- as part of the 2016 budget approved Monday.
The city council narrowly agreed on a 5-4 vote to include $150,000 in the budget for a study that will determine how a pedestrian underpass could be constructed under the Union Pacific/Canadian National Railway at Northwest Highway, where there's no sidewalk.
Mayor Matt Bogusz cast a tiebreaking vote to include the funds in the budget.
Aldermen also voted 6-2 to reallocate $200,000 budgeted for new city entrance signs into additional sidewalk replacements instead, for a total expenditure of $700,000 next year.
The total $150 million city budget was approved 7-1, with Alderman Patti Haugeberg casting the lone "no" vote, though Aldermen Dick Sayad and Jim Brookman said they were also voting against any city rebranding campaign expense in the budget, as well as money for the S-curve study.
The pedestrian underpass could cost between $10 million and $15 million and take several years to build, but supporters say now is the time to start looking at the possibility of building it.
"This is the first step," said Alderman Denise Rodd, who initiated a motion on the council floor to include funding for the study. "Is it going to take a long time to build? You betcha. Is it going to be messy? Yes. Is it going to unify the two halves of our city when it's done? Yes."
Rodd argued the pedestrian tunnel would provide access for pedestrians and cyclists coming from the city's west side into downtown, including residents of new townhouses and apartments that will be built on the former Littelfuse site.
Wharton Sinkler, a member of the Des Plaines Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, told aldermen that it's currently inconvenient for anyone who wants to walk, bike, or bring a stroller downtown.
"The situation is dangerous," he said. "That's why we need to move ahead."
While federal grants would likely cover most of the cost to construct the underpass, the city would be on the hook for about $2 million to $3 million.
That concerned some of the aldermen who voted against the study.
"It's going to be utilized four or five months out of the year," Sayad said.
"Is that a wise thing to spend my tax dollars on?" Sayad said.
The city has already put out a request for proposals to find a firm to do the study.
A firm could be selected in the winter and the study complete by spring, officials say.
Also Monday, aldermen agreed to keep the city property tax levy flat for the fifth year in a row.