Des Plaines OKs study for pedestrian underpass

  • A study will examine how pedestrian access could be provided at the Northwest Highway S-curve in Des Plaines.

    A study will examine how pedestrian access could be provided at the Northwest Highway S-curve in Des Plaines. Gilbert Boucher | Staff Photographer, 2004

Updated 4/5/2016 5:49 AM

Des Plaines will spend $142,355 to investigate how a pedestrian underpass could be constructed at the city's infamous Northwest Highway S-curve.

The city council's 5-3 vote Monday night to pay for the study by engineering firm V3 Companies came after aldermen learned the developer of townhouses and apartments near the S-curve may be willing to pay for part of the study or improvements -- just not now.


City Manager Mike Bartholomew said officials at Buckingham Properties, which is developing the old Littelfuse property at 800 E. Northwest Hwy., would be interested in a cost-sharing arrangement with the city, but they're not yet sure of overall cost projections for the development project.

Two weeks ago, aldermen deferred their vote on the S-curve study to see if the developer would chip in, since new residents would benefit from the underpass.

A majority of aldermen were still willing Monday to move ahead, arguing the study could potentially solve a long-running problem of walkers and bikers on the northwest side of town being cut off from downtown.

Whether it's a pedestrian tunnel under the Union Pacific/Canadian National Railway tracks, or bridges over or around the tracks and nearby Weller Creek, the improvements could cost between $10 million and $15 million. City officials expect to receive federal and state grants, but say the city might have to pick up $2 million to $3 million of the costs.

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Alderman Dick Sayad said those costs are too high, and questioned how often people would walk or bike to downtown.

Aldermen Jim Brookman and Malcolm Chester said there's perhaps bigger priorities of other projects to fund citywide.

Alderman Denise Rodd said the crash last Friday morning of a car carrier into the railroad overpass would have been worse had someone been walking or biking there at the same time.

"I think about Rosemont, the city just to our south," Rodd said. "They're building a minor league baseball stadium. They are making no small plans and here we are quibbling about a pedestrian bike path."

The study is scheduled to be finished by September, and it could be another three years until any changes are made at the S-curve.

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