October 8th, 2019 1:43 PM
SOUND RESOLUTION: Metra plans to fund $60,000 sound barrier to mitigate noise from rail expansion project. | ALEXA ROGALS/Staff Photographer
By Maria Maxham
State Senator Kimberly Lightford (4th) and River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci have worked out a deal with Metra and Union Pacific (UP), which will address problems residents have encountered as a result of the UP and Metra Third Rail Expansion project.
Despite a lengthy and heated negotiation process with UP and Metra, the railroads have come through with plans that will help mitigate the sound and safety issues.
In a statement over email, Adduci thanked the parties that came together to come up with a solution for River Forest residents.
"The village is grateful for the leadership of Senator Kimberly Lightford in helping to work through the various issues and find mutually agreeable solutions. We also want to thank our various partners, including Union Pacific and especially Metra, who exhibited vision and innovation in piloting a program in River Forest to find economical solutions to sound mitigation along the rail lines," she said.
Union Pacific had originally agreed to put up a security fence that would be 8 feet tall in some parts and 4 feet tall in others. Now, however, the fence will be 8 feet tall for the full length of the property behind residents' homes. The chain link fence will also include locking gates at the entry point to the access road.
One of the biggest concerns — noise that impacts residents — will be remedied by Metra, who has agreed to use River Forest as part of its pilot program to try an "Acoustiblok" fence. The cost of adding the product, which will attach to the fencing that UP puts up, will be $60,000 and will be funded by Metra, which will be studied to see if the product can be used in other areas as well. They will conduct sound studies after installation to test its effectiveness.
According to an email from River Forest resident, and spokesperson for this issue, Megan Keskitalo, the material produced by Acoustiblok should reduce the noise level from 78 dB to 50 dB, which will be a big difference and "comparable to the background level of noise in the neighborhood."
UP will submit plans for the access road, which will be a permanent road, to the village of River Forest for approval before any construction begins.
The village of River Forest matched UP's contribution of $2,500 to re-landscape the trees and shrubbery that were destroyed during construction of the third rail, so there is $5,000 available for planting after the project is complete.
Finally, the village is looking into the installation of additional security cameras in the area, either through a collaboration with Metra or UP.
"We are so grateful to our village leadership and Senator Lightford, and to Metra for being an amazing partner who cares about our neighborhood safety and public health," said Keskitalo in an email.
According to Village Administrator Eric Palm, a timeline has not yet been set for these updates.