The idea of "if we build it, they will come" is a concern among Hinsdale residents who are worried a project to replace the Oak Street bridge will move traffic more efficiently, but will bring an increase in north-south, cut-through traffic in the village.
Those concerns were voiced during a public hearing last week concluding the first phase of the project to replace the 128-year-old steel-and-timber bridge that stands just south of Adventist Hinsdale Hospital.
"The hottest button in the room is the traffic volume," said resident Mike Smith who asked the village to stipulate that it would use traffic calming measures if it is seen that traffic volume increases when the one-lane bridge over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad track becomes two-lanes.
Village President Tom Cauley said the village board is already on record as not wanting to see any increase in traffic on the bridge.
"We're not envisioning any traffic increase. We're going to do everything we can to keep it the same," he said.
Trustee Laura LaPlaca said the village will keep a close eye on traffic counts once the work is completed, and will consider measures such as medians, humps and barriers if there is an increase in traffic using the bridge.
About 20 people attended that meeting describing the $13 million to $17 million project to build the new bridge. Work is expected to start in 2015 and be finished by 2016. The project will not use any village money.
The work calls for a two-lane bridge that will be three-feet higher than the existing bridge, 20-feet-wider and 50-feet-longer. It also will require some changes to Oak and other adjacent streets.
Resident Ed Mettheeussen said he's concerned traffic will line the street approaching the bridge and other drivers will not be able to make the turn into the entrance of the hospital.
"I envision a solid line of traffic at prime time," he said.
Hinsdale Police Chief Brad Bloom said he expects having two lanes will keep traffic moving.
"I don't think we're going to have the queues and solid lines of traffic," he said.
Another concern brought up by residents was the look of the new bridge and an adjacent structure — a retaining wall that would be constructed in Highland Park. Resident Steve Cashman asked what would be done to soften the look of the wall.
"A 12-foot-high concrete wall? It could really change the aesthetic of the area. It could be brutal," he said.
LaPlaca said the plans call for it to be a tiered wall with plantings. She said the bridge itself will be constructed to be in keeping with the look of the Metra Train Station.
"The understanding is that the bridge is going to be an architectural structure that will fit into the community," added village engineer Dan Deeter.
LaPlaca said the village is recommending to the Illinois Department of Transportation HR Green Associates for the second phase of the project, which will entail finalizing what the bridge will look like.
"This is the fun part," she said.
The firm, ClarkDietz, which handled the first phase that involved engineering plans and environmental assessments did not bid to do the second phase. Allen Staron, project engineer for ClarkDietz, said he did not expect there will be any problems with project continuity even with a different firm handling the next phase.