Addressing the Route 47 expansion and the River Road bridge closure, Yorkville’s city leaders hosted a question-and-answer session at Bicentennial Riverfront Park Friday evening.
About 30 people attended the special meeting — which corresponded with the start of Yorkville’s River Night community festival — getting a chance to voice their concerns directly to Mayor Gary Golinski and other city officials. Most aldermen also attended the community forum, which was not considered an official city council meeting because the agenda had not been properly posted at the pavilion where the forum was held.
Debate over the plans to expand Route 47 dominated the hour-long meeting, with Golinski referring to the situation as a “quagmire” — a term first used by Ward 1 Alderman Carlo Colosimo — on several occasions. The conflict centered whether the city should reject bike trails state officials in construction plans, a decision that would save the city money but jeopardize funding for the whole expansion project.
“It’s really a topic I wanted the council involved with,” Golinski said. “Ultimately, it’s a council decision.”
Golinski outlined three possible courses of action the City could take, noting that the issue will be discussed in depth again at the City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday.
The first option calls for Yorkville officials to notify the Illinois Department of Transportation that they do not wish to include new trails and sidewalks in the Route 47 project. That would save the city $116,000 in construction costs, but would cost the city $30,000 in additional engineering expenses with IDOT, which would have to alter its expansion designs.
That option also delays the project six-to-nine months, potentially pushing it into another state budget year and putting funding at risk.
“That’s one option I don’t think anybody wants to see,” Golinski said. “We’ve been waiting years to get this road widened. To delay it, I just think would be detrimental to our city.”
Option two would have the City tell IDOT to continue with the project as planned, with the expansion likely being completed on-schedule in 2014 or 2015.
In the third scenario, the City would notify IDOT it plans to cut costs from the project in different areas than the trails and sidewalks. The cuts could come from plans to enhance downtown Yorkville, allowing the project to be completed at a reduced cost with less delay than if the sidewalks and trails were removed.
City staff suggested a few areas where project funding could be cut:
• Replace downtown fencing with the same fox detail used at the top of the wall at Riverfront Park — estimated at $172,000 for the fence and $40,000 for the handrail — with standard IDOT railing, which comes at no cost aside from $8,000 for black coating.
• Remove coloring (estimated at $19,000) or stamping ($59,000) of new crosswalks.
• Remove lights in select locations, such as between Route 126 and Fox Road or River Road to Somonauk Street, saving a total of $75,000, according to the council’s agenda.
Golinski said the third option does carry some reengineering costs, but that expects it to garner interest. Yorkville resident Kate Elder spoke up in support of that choice.
“It’s wants versus needs. While it’s nice to have a pretty downtown Yorkville — I think we all want that — what’s more important is the safety and safe recreation for the residents,” said Elder, a triathlete who trains by running and biking along roads in Yorkville. “I think that’s more important than pretty handrails.”
But opponents of the bike trails cited the fact that voters twice declined to give city officials permission to increase taxes to pay for the city’s portion of the bike paths, and argued that the cost to put the trails in would outweigh their benefit.
In response to the possible six-to-nine month delay, one man questioned whether Route 47 really needs to be widened in Yorkville.
Taking questions on a variety of issues, Golinski also touched on the May closure of River Road bridge, saying: “We have that as a top priority, to get that bridge reconstructed and reopened. That is vital to public safety here in the city.”
Golinski reported that an engineering firm determined in mid-June that there is no temporary solution for reopening the bridge and that the existing structure needs to be replaced. He listed a tentative timeline of March 12 to enter bids and the end of 2012 for the reopening the bridge “if the stars align.”
Editor's note: Click here to see a video of Golinski talking about the River Road bridge.