Hinsdale was presented with the latest proposed Oak Street Bridge replacement plan at Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting after the village’s engineering consultant got a not-so-enthusiastic response to a different proposal last month.
Under the new plan, the bridge would have two lanes of traffic after being widened by 16 feet, and the intersection of Oak and Chicago Avenue would become a four-way stop that's re-graded and raised by 10 inches to accomodate height mandates for bridges over railroad tracks.
The village plans to have state and federal grants completely cover the bridge replacement project. For that to happen, the new bridge must adhere to government and railroad standards, including the minimum height (23 feet, 4 inches above the tracks). It also must contain two lanes, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
According to Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) engineer Marilin Solomon, “The [Federal Highway Administration] specifically stated that a new bridge should be constructed to carry two lanes of traffic. The construction of a one-lane bridge could not be approved since a one-lane bridge would be functionally obsolete.”
The design plan discussed Tuesday night was a departure from one that was presented to the Oak Street Bridge community working group on May 10. Under that plan, the Oak-Chicago intersection would have been raised 18 inches and traffic lights would have been installed there, as well as at the intersection of Chicago and County Line Road.
“The feedback we received that night … particularly to the street-work south of the railroad, it wasn’t received very positively,” said senior vice president Allen Staron of Clark Dietz, the village’s engineering consultant.
Trustee Laura LaPlaca, who has represented the Board of Trustees in the working group, said residents wanted construction impact to be minimized and traffic control to remain the same.
“We want the bridge to be functional at highest level as required by IDOT and by the railroad, while at the same time … [fitting] into the residential character of our community,” LaPlaca said.
Proposed Bridge Basics
Under Tuesday's proposal, the new bridge would contain two walkways, one on each side, and it would be flatter than the current bridge to improve lines of sight.
South of the bridge, road reconstruction would extend down Oak approximately 150 feet south of Chicago to accommodate the new grading from a higher and flatter bridge. Approximately 400 feet of Chicago would need to be reconstructed. Five resident driveways would need to be redone, too.
The Chicago-County Line intersection would remain a four-way stop, Staron said. No street widening on Oak or Chicago would need to take place. (Those streets would need to be widened if traffic lights are installed.)
North of bridge, five driveways would have to be redone, as Oak is re-graded to Walnut Street.
“We plan to do that in stages to permit access to the hospital,” Staron said.
Due to re-grading north of the bridge, Hillgrove Avenue would be disconnected from Oak under Tuesday's plan. The street just north of the tracks that currently runs one way, from Oak to County Line, would become a two-way, dead-end street that would only be accessible from County Line. Nine parking spaces on Hillgrove would have to be eliminated.
Keeping Traffic Steady
Solomon, who has represented IDOT at working group meetings, said Tuesday that her agency would prefer stop lights at the nearby intersections, but stop signs are allowed if the village can prove that they are enough control for the area’s traffic levels.
Village President Tom Cauley said it's his intention to keep the Oak Street Bridge traffic the same with a new bridge as it is currently with the old bridge. Staron said current traffic levels would justify stop signs.
To keep traffic in the area from rising with a new two-way bridge, Hinsdale Police Chief Brad Bloom said turn restrictions, speed bumps, and even new cul-de-sacs can be implemented to reduce traffic between Ogden Avenue and 55th Street. He said he’d want to go from the least intrusive methods, like turn restrictions, before making any major changes to the village’s roads.
“Whatever we do, we want to keep that route as inefficient as it is now so we don’t attract any more cut-through traffic,” Bloom said.
“We certainly don’t want to put in a new bridge that encourages cut-through traffic by nonresidents,” the village president said. “We also need to be sensitive to putting traffic controls in place that make it difficult for our own residents to move from one side of town to the other.”
Tuesday’s presentation was informational; the bridge project is still in its first phase, the preliminary engineering and environmental studies. From here, Staron of Clark Dietz said, the next steps will be to meet with Adventist Hinsdale Hospital officials to explain the new proposal, complete a preliminary design package for IDOT review, and hold another community working group meeting in the fall to discuss the new plan.
By the end of 2012 or early 2013, Staron said he hopes the first phase will be completed and the formal design work can begin.