City has eye on safety in Washington Street bridge options
By Hank Beckman For The Sun November 27, 2012 8:58PM
Updated: December 29, 2012 6:35AM
Washington Street is one of the busiest roads in Naperville. The city is looking to make it more user friendly, at least as far as bikers and pedestrians are concerned.
Naperville staff Tuesday held an open house at the Naper Boulevard Library to showcase preliminary plans for widening Washington Street where it crosses the DuPage River between Ring and Royce roads.
“This is for improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists to get across Washington Street at the west branch of the DuPage River,” said Brian Fairwood of Tran Systems, an engineering consulting firm working with the city on the project.
Currently the four-lane roadway has no sidewalk on either side at that location. A narrow shoulder barely big enough to accommodate a single pedestrian on one side of the road serves as the only way to cross the river there for those walking.
There are some sidewalks that end about 200 feet before the south end of the bridge, but nothing on the north end.
With the 45 mph speed limit on the street and nearby schools, residences and parks bringing a good deal of traffic, navigating the bridge on foot or by bicycle can be a harrowing process.
Even before the build-up of the area, the bridge was not entirely safe to navigate.
“I used to play under the bridge when I was young,” City Councilman Paul Hinterlong said. “When you had to cross it, you had to run for your life.”
The forum was a step in the process of planning for a new bridge at the location.
“We want to get a solid idea of the scope and cost of the project, so we can apply for grant funding,” Jennifer Louden, city project manager, said. “It’s been on our radar for some time. We are aware of it as a gap in our sidewalk system.”
Louden said that the public input from the forum would be presented to the Transportation Advisory Board Saturday.
Between that meeting and February, staff will work on refining the final plan, which will eventually go to City Council for a vote.
If everything goes as planned, preliminary engineering can begin on the project in February 2014.
As for what the final plan will be, it will likely be drawn from one of three ideas. The first is to widen the existing bridge and install 5-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides. The second is to construct a new bridge for bikers and pedestrians alongside the current bridge. The separate bridge would be about 12 feet wide and have the advantage of providing continuity with the pedestrian and bike path immediately north of the river.
A third proposal is to build another bridge farther east and upstream of the current bridge to help people cross the river at that point.
Cost estimates are preliminary, but promise to be in the same range whether the decision is to build a separate structure ($750,000) or widen the existing bridge ($800,000).
“The costs are close enough to where it’s not going to be a deciding factor,” Fairwood said.
Kevin Clifford said he was in favor of a separate structure because it would enhance safety.
“It will let me get to the path,” he said.