TAB considers pedestrian access to Washington bridge
By Hank Beckman For The Sun December 4, 2012 1:44PM
Updated: January 6, 2013 9:37AM
Naperville’s Transportation Advisory Board heard testimony Saturday about improving non-vehicular access on the Washington Street bridge as it crosses the DuPage River between Ring and Royce roads.
Estimated costs to update the bridge are between $750,000 and $800,000, depending on whether the city decides to create a separate adjacent structure or widen the existing bridge to make room for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Residents of the area have long complained that the bridge offers no safe way to get from one side of the river to another.
“It’s extremely dangerous,” Kevin Clifford told TAB members, pleading with the body to include shared access between pedestrians and cyclists in whatever action they recommended to City Council.
“This is something we’ve talked about for over a decade,” former TAB member Tom Craighead told the board. “Please do it.”
Craighead also urged the body to consider rethinking the 45 mph speed limit, because traffic often exceeds the legal limit.
The bridge’s four-lane roadway has no dedicated sidewalk on either side, and only a narrow shoulder without any physical separation between traffic on the roadway and pedestrians trying to get across.
City staff presented two options to the board for consideration. The $800,000 option consists of widening the existing bridge on both sides with a 6-foot sidewalk.
The other would build a separate structure just east of the bridge and provide a 12-foot walkway that would serve as dual access for pedestrians and cyclists. Its estimated cost is $750,000.
A Nov. 27 open house on the matter saw 19 residents speak emphatically about the need for some kind of solution. Of the residents at the open house, 10 were in favor of the bridge widening, seven were in favor of the separate structure and two had no preference.
“They would like to see it as soon as possible,” City Project Manager Jennifer Louden said.
Louden also indicated that whichever plan was ultimately recommended to City Council, the residents wanted a physical barrier between pedestrians or cyclists and the traffic.
The advantages of a separate structure, besides the slightly lower cost, are that it would easily accommodate shared access for pedestrians and cyclists and have less impact on the surrounding environment.
Also, the work could be done without impacting traffic on the bridge. But the separate structure would only fix the access problem on the east side of the road.
David Pressig asked Louden why the option of only widening one side of the bridge wasn’t presented.
Louden said, because of economies of scale, it would be more cost-efficient to widen both sides, if that turns out to be the approach taken by the city.
Kathy Benson said she felt it was important to have sidewalks on both sides of the bridge, but asked about possible future maintenance.
Louden said that, with the last inspection in 2011, the need for bridge maintenance would not come up for 15 to 20 years.
Chair Dennis Wencel also had a preference for widening on both sides, but questioned whether the six feet would provide shared access.
“It would be better to have a separate structure,” Louden said.
Wencel said he preferred access on both sides, but noted the financial realities might dictate upgrading only the east side. He stressed that whatever the city ultimately decides, some physical barrier was preferable.
“I do think separation is necessary,” he said.
The board tabled the public discussion until its February meeting.