Though a collective groan came from the Memorial Hall audience when the County Line Road underpass price tag was announced Wednesday evening at an , several attendees stepped to the microphone in support of the pricier option.
"What we have to look at is, what is the best solution for the whole? What is the best solution for our town?" Hinsdale resident Dan Bryan said.
Bryan said an underpass does not have to make County Line a high-speed thoroughfare, like many worry it would, and a replacement bridge at Oak Street, the other option being considered, will increase traffic through town, as well.
According to village manager David Cook, the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad has said they have repaired the existing Oak Street Bridge for the last time and it will need to be replaced in the coming years. Bryan said he doesn't want to go from an "F" grade with the current bridge to a "D" with a new bridge in the same spot.
County Line is "a natural spot" for an underpass, according to Bryan, because there's already an existing grade separation between the road and the train tracks. Hinsdale residents, he said, have explored the possibility of an underpass for years and it's the better long-term option.
"I may be David against Goliath, but there are other Davids here," Bryan said.
Jerry Mejdrich received applause from the crowd when he stepped up immediately after Bryan and said he "totally disagrees" with Bryan's point of view and cited the financial burden of the underpass option.
"The money is not everything, but the money is compelling," Mejdrich said.
Allen Staron of Clark Dietz, the village’s engineering partner, said replacing the soon-to-be-outdated Oak Street bridge would take two construction seasons and $13 million to $17 million. The creation of a County Line Road underpass, meanwhile, would likely take three construction seasons and $53 to $57 million.
The price tag didn't deter Glenn Bjorkman from speaking in favor of the underpass. Bjorkman brought copies of his 2009 letter to the Board of Trustees that was published then in The Hinsdalean.
In the letter, Bjorkman says a County Line underpass would be safer in the icy winter and lessen congestion on Chicago Avenue near , reducing the chances of pedestrian accidents.
Bjorkman also replied to complaints that an underpass would make County Line a busy street by saying it already is one of the busiest north-south streets in town.
Wednesday night, Bjorkman stepped read to the audience his letter's conclusion.
"We have the opportunity of a lifetime to leave a legacy for future generations so they can say we did well and solved this problem in a good way, rather than our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren saying we had a great opportunity of a lifetime, but we let it slip away."
In order to comply with Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad during the proposed underpass project, Clark Dietz's Staron said, a three-track detour would have to be constructed in order to keep the 150 trains that travel the rail section daily on schedule. Temporary Metra stations would need to be constructed, and railroad utilities, including fiber-optic cable and electric lines, would need to be considered and worked around.
A replacement bridge at the current location would be built so that it is at least 23 feet, 4 inches above the tracks, which is the minimum clearance required. The new bridge, as proposed Wednesday, would contain a less exaggerated hump, meaning drivers would have better visibility while traveling across the bridge.
Both options include the possibility of two-way traffic with two 12-foot traffic lanes. Both options would also have four-foot bike lanes on each side of the road and 10-foot parkways that would include sidewalks.
Funding is already in place for the replacement bridge option from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), the Federal Surface Transportation Program (STP), the Federal Bridge Replacement Funds (BRRP), and as well as the Illinois Capital Bill and the West Suburban Mass Transit District.
The village would have to apply for modifications to the ICC and STP grants if the County Line underpass were pursued. The BRRP would not be available for an underpass project.
"That's a start," Bryan said of transferring the grants.
"I don’t think we’re giving up on the underpass."
Numerous Hinsdale residents other than Bryan, Mejdrich, and Bjorkman spoke at Wednesday night's meeting. Most spoke in favor of the replacement bridge or wanted from the village more information on traffic patterns and safety issues that would emerge with a new bridge.