Glen Ellyn's Taylor Avenue underpass reopens, now with two tunnels

  • Pedestrians can bypass the Union Pacific railroad tracks at Taylor Avenue through a new illuminated tunnel.

    Pedestrians can bypass the Union Pacific railroad tracks at Taylor Avenue through a new illuminated tunnel. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn

  • The Taylor Avenue underpass in a Glen Ellyn neighborhood near Glenbard West High School has reopened after a four-month closure to allow crews to install a new, pedestrian-only tunnel alongside it to the east.

    The Taylor Avenue underpass in a Glen Ellyn neighborhood near Glenbard West High School has reopened after a four-month closure to allow crews to install a new, pedestrian-only tunnel alongside it to the east. Courtesy of the village of Glen Ellyn

  • Construction of a new tunnel at Taylor Avenue below the Union Pacific Railroad tracks required heavy machinery in a Glen Ellyn neighborhood.

      Construction of a new tunnel at Taylor Avenue below the Union Pacific Railroad tracks required heavy machinery in a Glen Ellyn neighborhood. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer, November 2018

 
 
Updated 12/31/2018 6:03 PM

Glen Ellyn drivers once again can avoid the Union Pacific railroad tracks through a wider Taylor Avenue underpass that reopened Monday afternoon after a four-month closure.

The village closed the underpass in mid-August in preparation for a project to build a pedestrian tunnel alongside it in the neighborhood a half-mile east of Glen Ellyn's central business district.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Both underpasses are now open and run parallel below the Union Pacific West Line.

The new, pedestrian-only tunnel provides a safer, illuminated crossing that separates Glenbard West High School students, Prairie Path cyclists and other users from cars bypassing the train tracks through the existing tunnel to the west, engineers say.

Crews have substantially completed the project as scheduled but plan to resume work on punch-list items in the spring. In celebration of that milestone, village officials and project team members will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the site of the new tunnel at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The engineering feat involved the collaboration of federal, county and state agencies, as well as utility providers that de-energized and dropped distribution lines during nonpeak periods to make way for construction machinery. During one week in November, a shielded excavator installed a roughly 60-foot-long section of the new tunnel, a nonstop boring process that pushed the steel pipe through the railroad embankment.

"The Taylor Avenue underpass project has been a testament to the great collaboration among all parties involved," Village President Diane McGinley said in a statement. "The end result of successfully delivering this complex project simply would not have been possible without an extremely talented and committed team of professionals."

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The project also added an 8-foot-wide path running from Willis Street to the north, through the new tunnel and ending at Walnut Street to the south.

Pedestrians and car traffic used to share the existing, one-lane underpass along Taylor Avenue. Anyone on foot had to walk single-file, while vehicles moved one at a time between the rough walls.

That path has been removed inside the existing tunnel fpr motorists and the driving lane widened an additional 2½ feet. The wider roadway will help traffic and public safety vehicles maneuver more easily inside the structure. Previously, it was such a tight squeeze that firefighters had to act as spotters to guide their trucks through the tunnel.

In the spring, sod will be placed on the parkway and permanent tunnel lighting will be installed, among other finishing touches. Concrete headwalls that stand at each end of the pedestrian tunnel -- measuring 12 feet in diameter -- also will be stained to "look like a natural stone," Village Professional Engineer Rich Daubert said in an update to trustees in December.

Grant funding will cover about 80 percent of the roughly $3.1 million in construction costs.

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