Edgebrook Construction meeting @North Branch Arts
July 25, 2018
There were about 35 people in attendance. There were representatives from Alderman Napolitano’s office, Alderman Laurino’s office, Metra, Chicago Water Department, and the engineers working on the construction project. There were also representatives from Everyday Edgebrook, Edgebrook Community Association, and the Edgebrook Sauganash Chamber and business owners.
The crowd went around and introduced themselves.
Jan Kupiec started out the meeting giving an intro. She specified that the meeting was held specifically for business owners but that community members had expressed an interest in attending but that we didn’t have space to accommodate.
Some comments she made:
-We want to try and figure out a way for the businesses to continue in the chaos of the construction
-Touhy construction, Caldwell paving, etc. all causing even more complications to traffic to the area
-Many business owners are thinking of closing their doors during the time that Devon is going to be closed for 8 days
-Much concern over Devon being closed and Jan questioned how they were going to handle Kinzua being blocked to traffic when the back alley needs to be accessible for parking and businesses to get to their offices.
A representative from one of alderman's offices had these comments:
-They worked with CDOT
-They have a plan to put flaggers out for first few days of Devon being closed
-They have moved up completion date to 8 days, not 10 as originally planned
-They are trying to help mitigate the situation
-They understand the terrible impact this is having on the community and businesses
Jan mentioned the difficulty with the communication from those working on the construction project with the business owners. The businesses and community do not feel they are getting needed info about the project in a timely manner.
A representative from Metra commented that they have put out signage about the closure. But the business owners pointed out there were only two signs at the tracks. They felt there should be more signage and have given folks more of a heads up.
A representative from Alderman Laurino’s office said there was a lack of information communicated about the unidentified cable because they simply didn’t have all the facts to communicate. When they had the info by Tuesday, 7/24, around 4pm, they communicated the facts. Their point was that they couldn’t have info to share until they had official statement.
Jan commented that the community and businesses would appreciate any kind of update just saying something. They found out, she thought, from the local newspaper, and she thought it should have been communicated better. Jan said that if the construction continues to affect our local businesses in such a detrimental way, the businesses will have to close. The businesses can’t pay their license fees. Someone in the crowd asked those working on construction project if they have insurance to cover hardships like this when the businesses are so adversely affected from the construction. Jan mentioned Everyday Edgebrook had reached out to Kenya from the small business office for the city for help.
Jan asked – What do our businesses do 8 days from now? Edgebrook’s business district is set up to die at this rate.
One of the representatives from the alderman’s office asked what timeframe we were originally told – and some business members responded that they were told it was a summer fix.
The construction began the first week of January. In March, they started working on Devon. And a month ago they started down by tracks.
Commentary from the business owners was that the construction crew did a great job communicating initially in the early stages of the construction.
The situation with the unknown cable: The cable needs to be relocated. It’s made by Canadian company. They need to redesign it and move it – this week that is happening. Then Metra will review. August 6th they hope to start work on the cable – they estimate it will be 3-4 weeks of work. Then they can continue rest of sewer work. (Re: cable – outer casing was damaged, not actual cable. New one must be relocated before they can take the other one out of service) After cable, then 3 weeks of tunneling. Then backfill 2 large holds on either side of the tracks. Then just west side of track to work on.
A business owner asked when there will be parking again on Devon – they are predicting early November.
There was some concern over estimating for November with concern over weather. The engineers of the project said that rain might just slow them down a little, they weren’t concerned about weather.
It was asked why they didn’t know the cable was there. The engineers explained that sometimes excavating in the city means that unexpected things occur. They are relying on others record drawings. They didn’t expect a telecommunications line to run that deep. Usually they are not found under the sewer line.
It was suggested by a business owner if the construction crew could possibly work 24 hours round the clock to get the work done? And is Metra working weekends? Metra said that yes they are working weekends and planning long hours.
The engineers and Metra commented that Devon will be open to local traffic only at Devon & Central intersection. There will be a barricade at Kinzua and Devon.
There was concern by community and business owners about cars coming down alley illegally the wrong way and creating traffic and dangerous situations.
Metra said that cars would be able to come out and cross Devon at Kinzua to turn east on Devon (for local traffic).
Metra will have traffic control starting tomorrow, Thursday, 7/26. They are closing street at 7am with traffic control planned for 7-5pm. Some community and business owners suggested keeping traffic control later during rush hour closer to 6pm.
The representatives from the alderman offices said they would confirm when the traffic control would be there.
Community and business owners in the crowd requested for there to be more signs to explain and warn people about the street closure.
A community member commented that for a high-profile traffic area with many schools in walking distance with kids in area, was there a way to make this construction project more high profile?
Community and business owners asked about working hours. The Metra representatives said there are ordinances in city about hours working. Someone asked if it was commercial area, there was some confusion if the area is considered commercial or residential. Jan asked if they needed to get a new permit for August 1st and could they possibly adjust the hours of work. A community member asked if they could come at night and work all night long.
A community member and business owner asked about the freight trains that add to the complexity of the problem. Can the freight trains be rerouted? A business owner said the issue was that there are approximately 4-5 freight trains every day. The Metra representatives said that Union Pacific Railroad own the freight trains.
Metra says that the agreement to use the tracks for freight was grandfathered in when Metra purchased the line.
Some community and business owners suggested that the freight train numbers and frequency increased after the 2011 train accident in Glenview. The construction engineers said that the Union Pacific Railroad may have found that after the accident in Glenview, that they may find it cheaper and safer to go down our line.
A community member said she wanted a more pedestrian focused area in Edgebrook business district. What can we do to make it more pedestrian focused? The alderman representatives said that they are working with CDOT to investigate this. That is has been a problem for 70-80 years. CDOT is doing study now.
The alderman’s office representatives said that after all the construction is done, there is a grant from Cook County to make the area more bike friendly.
They also said that if we want more people, we should bring more parking. But the problem is there isn’t much money in parking garages. They have suggested have residential living spaces to then have parking but, in the past, the community/businesses were not in favor of this.
The alderman’s office representatives want to capitalize on all this traffic (auto) somehow.
A community member asked if Metra can let people park in the Metra parking lots after 5pm for free? Or can they do 2 free hours? Metra representatives said they don’t maintain the parking lots so it’s not up to them. The alderman office representatives said they will reach out and find out if this is a possibility.
A business owner suggested putting in a pedestrian bridge that goes over the tracks. Metra said they don’t know of one for pedestrian crossway – but they also don’t have funds for something like that.
A business owner gave the feedback that from mid August – December, their business is huge and any night work would be appreciated to get the project finished sooner than November/December.
Are there any funds to help the businesses out? The alderman office representative said they only have funds for infrastructure dollars.
The alderman’s office representatives said they will be happy to include promotion of the neighborhood and local businesses in their newsletter and social media.
A community member commented that the real failure is the customers. They still must come to the area and shop even if it’s hard.
A community member asked if we think parking will help bring people to the area. Another community member commented that it would help, but it won’t bring customers into the area because they are deliberately avoiding the area because of the construction.
The alderman office representatives asked if the city might fund opening the parking lots during this time. And a community member suggested to stop requiring meter payments during the construction.
Ultimately, a community member commented, that we need all this construction to go away.
The alderman office representatives said they will
Push the commissioner to get done with this project
Will push opening the parking lots (a question about whether the area is considered commercial or residential came up again)
Will help with campaign to bring people to the area and businesses
Will help with sending out promotions in their newsletters, social media and help printing for marketing
A community member asked if there could be a funding of a direct mail campaign using the alderman office contacts for this area. Like a “Don’t forget about us” campaign. The alderman’s office representatives said they would help fund that with our help. The community member suggested 1/3 paid by Laurino’s office, a 1/3 by Napolitano’s office and a 1/3 by ECA/community organizations.
An engineer on the construction team suggested to possibly open up the middle area of Devon (that is closed) to be used for a single lane of parking. They would need to designate that as parking with signage. They think it could be done but they need to first make sure it’s safe.
Business owners asked that when Devon is closed for 8 days, where are the expected detours? They want to give info about the diverted traffic to their customers.
The alderman office representatives asked Metra representatives to give them better map of detours.
A community member commented that they do not think Metra is prepared for this.
The community and business owners needs better communication about the construction projects and more signage. They suggested signage farther out, so people know well before getting to the intersection what is happening.
A community member said that in the past they had suggested they change the stop location for the Metra trains to keep the gates up longer. Metra said it’s a complicated process.
When new info about construction plan is known, the first place for communicating it will be from the alderman offices in newsletter or social media.
Jan mentioned that Everyday Edgebrook was trying to add an event to bring folks into the area by using the Kinzua street parking area on a Saturday for an event. The alderman office representatives think this is CDOT’s jurisdiction because of the street closure.
A community member suggested adding a water source at Kinzua and Devon. They received a grant for big pots of plants that are difficult to water at that corner because no water source.
A big thank you to all who came out!