Residents of Normal have a chance tonight to speak up on the proposed Uptown Station railroad crossing, and we hope they take the opportunity.
We also hope the Normal City Council listens carefully and thoughtfully to what they have to say. The meeting is from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fourth floor of Uptown Station, 11 Uptown Circle. New York City-based engineering firm WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff will make a presentation at 6 p.m. Public comments will be accepted for 30 days.
In June, Normal officials plan to make a final choice for the long-delayed crossing, which is needed to help Amtrak passengers and potentially other pedestrians get from Uptown Station to the south side of the tracks.
Options include using nearby street crossings; an at-grade crossing at the same height as the tracks; an overpass open only to Amtrak passengers; a public overpass; and an underpass.
Town officials have stated that, due to safety concerns and railroad regulations, only an overpass or an underpass are feasible options.
Because of cost and timing, the town already had decided to build an overpass when the council in 2014 put the idea on hold in order to study the idea of an underpass. An underpass, estimated to more expensive, would take three to five years to complete.
Normal's Uptown 2.0 plan, which first recommended building an underpass, listed it with a $12.7 million price tag and the overpass at $8.6 million. A goal of the WSP study is to find updated cost estimates for each option.
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While trains will not travel at high speeds through uptown Normal, track owners require that pedestrian crossings along high-speed rail lines meet several safety standards.
With a passenger station on the south side of the tracks and a waiting area on the north side — not to mention people who want to cross back and forth between uptown and the proposed Uptown South area — a pedestrian crossing definitely is needed.
As we said in 2014, either option — under or over — would provide egress across the tracks. Both designs would meet safety standards. One may be more graceful; the other may be more utilitarian. Both will serve the purpose.
Normal leaders and their planners, architects and uptown business owners have worked long and hard to make uptown Normal a beautiful destination for retail, restaurants, hotels and entertainment. Residents and taxpayers of Normal have spoken up about their likes and dislikes, but generally understand that the redeveloped uptown area has been a benefit to the town's tax base.
Both sides need to give the same long-sighted vision to their decision on the pedestrian crossing.
They need to stop, look and listen before they decide which choice is the best choice.