A group of St. Charles residents want the city to take another look at the support for pursuing the Red Gate Bridge project.
Members of Concerned Coalition for Sensible Spending are saying that now is not the right time to build the newest proposed Fox River crossing.
While the group's President Mark Prieve believes that he would benefit by having another bridge, he said the people in the group are concerned about the city trying to build the $30 million bridge in the midst of an economic downtown and would like residents to have a second chance to sound off in survey concerning the bridge.
“Let’s do another survey … that’s what we’re asking for,” Prieve said.
Proponents of the bridge have said that it will provide another access across river, easing traffic downtown and improve public safety, among other reasons.
Opposition to the bridge project is varied, and might be growing if Prieve’s group is any indication. They are the latest voice to speak up as the bridge project, which broke ground on Thursday, has revved up in recent years.
During the groundbreaking, officials acknowledged a general concern voiced by residents of Wayne, located north of St. Charles.
The bridge would funnel traffic from Red Gate Road on the west side and connect with Route 25. Army Trail Road, which runs through Wayne, is near the project connection.
Prieve said that others, including at least one homeowners association near the proposed bridge site, have voiced concerns that range from general safety issues to how much benefit will residents actually get out of another bridge in the area. Specifically, while the bike and foot path in the projects first phase are fine for the group, timing for pursing the bridge itself is premature, Prieve said.
Also on Thursday, Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay recalled her experience with the Stearns Road Bridge, a county project built a little more than one mile to the north of where the Red Gate Bridge will go.
Prieve said that this proximity, and a number of other considerations, should prompt a new look at the justification for the proposed bridge.
At the groundbreaking, St. Charles Mayor Don DeWitte told the gathered crowd of about 100 people that included local, county and state officials, of the "unwavering support" for the bridge over the years and that “no candidate" regardless of office being sought, who has run opposing this project, has ever been elected to public office.”
“Like the Prairie Street Bridge before it, initially labeled by uninformed critics as the ‘Bridge To Nowhere,’ a moniker some people have tried to attach to this project,” DeWitte said, “that ‘Bridge To Nowhere’ now carries an excess of 10,000 vehicle a day that must be going somewhere.”
Recent criticism, at least the kind coming from the Prieve’s group, is focused on the very justifications that are propelling city officials.
One survey, taken in 2009, indicted a 65 percent approval rating for the bridge.
Prieve said he believes the survey was flawed in including local residents—up to 40 percent, according to Prieve—who don’t live within the boundaries of St. Charles. He would like to see a new analysis of support for the project.
“They do that, I think that 65 percent they got in the first survey in '09,” Prieve said, “I think they’ll get vastly different results.”
“If everyone came out and it was overwhelming … we would completely back up off this issue,” he added.
The group also questions whether reducing traffic downtown, where Prieve said businesses would want more potential customers, is such a good idea. He also sees the issuance of bonds the city has proposed to partially pay for the bridge as a “tax” on resident.