Glen Ellyn tunnel project on track to break ground in late August

If a train is backing up traffic in downtown Glen Ellyn, drivers can get around it through the Taylor Avenue tunnel - but there are some serious downsides with that route.

It's close quarters for both the pedestrians and car traffic that share the tunnel at the Union Pacific tracks in a neighborhood near Glenbard West High School. Anyone on foot has to walk single-file, while traffic moves one vehicle at a time between the rough walls.

But the one-lane underpass will be noticeably wider and safer when a new, pedestrian-only tunnel is built alongside it on the east side of Taylor Avenue.

The village expects to break ground by late August, subject to Union Pacific's approval of a contractor submittal in coordination with ComEd. Utility crews need to de-energize and drop distribution lines during a nonpeak period to make way for construction machinery, just one reason why the project involves so many moving pieces, engineers say.

The Taylor Avenue underpass will remain closed to car traffic for the duration of the roughly four-month project, but the village won't put detours in place until roadwork wraps up on a segment of nearby Park Boulevard north of Fairview Avenue.

"We really appreciate the public's cooperation," said Rich Daubert, the village's professional engineer. "We understand there's a lot of construction going on this year, but this is a project that we've worked very hard to get to this point."

Daubert said the village will try to let pedestrians through the Taylor Avenue underpass as much as possible during the project.

The neighborhood also will have to deal with a particularly noisy construction zone when crews begin drilling for the installation of the tunnel - essentially a steel pipe 12 feet in diameter and 90 feet in length.

Based on an initial schedule, it will take at least a month and a half to prepare the site for the tunneling itself, a continuous operation that will likely be done over a weekend when there isn't as much train traffic on the Union Pacific West Line.

"It will be an invasive process, but it will at least be relatively quick," Daubert said.

A new, 8-foot-wide concrete path will run from Willis Street to the north, through the illuminated tunnel and end at Walnut Street to the south.

It's sure to be popular with Glenbard West students and bicyclists who now navigate a 3-foot-wide path in the existing Taylor Avenue underpass. It's so narrow that firefighters have to act as spotters to guide fire trucks through the tunnel.

That path will be removed, and the pavement widened an additional 2.5 feet to allow traffic to maneuver more easily inside the tunnel.

The project could be finished in late December. Grants will cover 80 percent of the roughly $2.7 million cost of the construction contract.

The village will send letters to homeowners in the neighborhood inviting them to a meeting about the project, probably in mid-August, Daubert said.

Village President Diane McGinley called the work "a much anticipated and needed public safety improvement project that has come to fruition thanks to village engineering staff, the village board and our partners at Union Pacific Railroad."

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