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Group: Not the Right Time for Red Gate Bridge

A group of residents have questions about the justification for the proposed $30 million bridge.

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.

P Fox August 27, 2011 at 05:30 AM
The ground-breaking show is ridiculous. The property adjacent to the Little Woods School is completely changed; far less 'woods', no more sledding hill, no more field for kite-flying, softball, or people running their dogs. This has all gone on prior to the official ground-breaking", and I bet the underlying logic is "too much is invested (read: ruined) to be abandoned now." What about effects on property values of adjacent homes? What about information being given to those people before the fact, not a knock on the door by a project engineer after a month of tree-cutting, bulldozing, gravel- spreading and the noise of trucks before 7am some mornings,,,, The PE saying "By the way, there's a bridge going in, call if you'd like to talk...." This bridge is not needed, and although the money is supposed to be on hand already, I'm waiting to read about shortfalls, cost overruns, unplanned expenses and tax increases which I'm sure are going to come. And I'll bet they won't be sought through referendum. I too agree that this bridge is not as popular as "studies" stated; not by a long shot.
Ryan Gallagher August 27, 2011 at 01:39 PM
My minor and self-serving concern is for the adjacent dog park. Such an awesome open prairie, wooded, water access, dog friendly, park, is an extreme rarity in Illinois. I'm hopeful that once the work is done (if it is to be done) that the dog park opens again.
Nolan Day August 27, 2011 at 03:58 PM
There is no industry in between the newly opened Stearns Rd bridge just to the north of Red Gate Rd and downtown St Charles. The only benefit it might serve is for people going from East high school to North high school. With a speed limit of 25 in Wayne, you won't get to Route 59 faster than going north to the Stearns Rd bridge. I would receive one benefit as I go over to Primrose Farm Park quite often but I don't need a convenience that costs $30 million dollars to save me 10 minutes. Several on the east and west side will lose property value due to noise.There is already a bike and pedestrian crossing a mile or so north of this environmentally and financially wasteful project. I was told by a Traffic consultant at one of the bridge propaganda meetings that the back up on Route 31 would be less at Route 64 post bridge. I said to him that if they posted peak hour no left hand turn signs at that intersection drivers heading south would use the under-used Prairie and Illinois St bridges. He then said "But that would take traffic through residential areas"! I asked "Is that bad?" He said "Yes". When I asked about the neighborhoods on either side of the ending points of the proposed Red Gate Bridge he just walked away. In other words, it is OK to defecate in someone else's yard. Thanks to the Mayor and City Council for dumping on those of us in surrounding communities who have no vote in St Charles. St C people are better than that. But your politicians are not.
D. Niel August 27, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Yes we called the Prairie street bridge, the bridge to nowhere. Apparently the Illinois bridge was also called the bridge to nowhere when it was built. Mayor Dewitt only tells part of the story. The reason the Prairie Street bridge exists today is because the City of St.Charles was told they must build another local bridge in St. Charles in order for a federally funded bridge to be sited as the northern passage between Elgin and St. Charles. Towns up and down the river competed for the money and location of this regional bridge. A northern local bridge was considered, but the legal wrangling made a local northern bridge nonviable. So the southern portion of St. Charles is flush with river crossing locations. Having now lived with three bridges in near proximity to my home, I have concluded that bridges disperse traffic. This in turn reduces travel time, reduces gas usage and pollution. So I say to those up north, another bridge will be good for St. Charles. You too need your very own bridge to nowhere. It will take you to places you never imagined. Welcome to the City of St. Charles home of the Bridges to nowhere.
D. Niel August 27, 2011 at 04:13 PM
P.S. Mayor Dewitt should not call bridge critics ill informed, often they are not ill informed they simply have an opinion that is not your own. The opposition is likely well informed as was the opposition to the Prairies Street Bridge.
TDY August 27, 2011 at 04:15 PM
As I recall, that Red Gate Bridge was originally on the books in 1948. It is not needed nor wanted. The Stearns Road Bridge was supposed to be the answer; What St. Charles WRONG again! Get you tax base by putting in business that help the town, as Geneva and South Elgin have. Not another car dealership or bar. So much for a wonderful place for families! Is this for the further preparation of building another High School because of the overcrowding at St. Charles North - that's right the one on the corner of Route #31 and RED GATE!!!
D. Niel August 27, 2011 at 04:26 PM
I've got news for you Nolan Day, the Prairie Street Bridge is bumper to bumper during peak traffic hours. It requires that you navigate through multiple stop signs. Those of use who use the southern bridges, exit off of 64 as soon as traffic allows. We then cut through a variety of streets on the east side of St. Charles to make our way to the Prairie St. or Illinois bridge.
Nolan Day August 27, 2011 at 08:08 PM
DJN-Did you get the news that one of the bridges, either the or Prairie St were supposed to go through to Tyler? I too use those bridges but I guess having grown up in LA, driven a lot in New York and of course the worst traffic in the world around downtown Chicago, a few minutes wait at a light doesn't send my blood pressure up as much as seeing St Charles downtown turn into a business district with very little retail which would bring in taxes and be good for our restaurants besides millions of dollars being wasted. If a future bridge was needed in St C it should be just north of downtown by the golf course or Country Club Rd. Tell me the news about how the Red Gate Bridge will help the safety concerns around North High. I have done 3 morning traffic counts in the last 3 years at Prairie and IL bridges during the work week. IL St bridge approx 3 cars per 10 on route 64 and 1.5 per 10 on Prairie St. Glad to meet you there any morning to compare my findings. I'll bet you a Starbucks, but let's make it soon while the business is still there.
D. Niel August 27, 2011 at 10:56 PM
So you drive across the Prairie Street bridge to go where? I am going to make a guess here, if you are concerned about the well being of North High School, it is likely that you do not live in one of the Southern quandrants of St. Charles. Do you believe that families living in the Southern portions of St. Charles have no safety concerns? If elementary and middle school children attending schools within the Southwest quadrant are able to safely navigate across Prairie Street, I am sure the teenagers at North High School will figure out how to navigate additional traffic too. So my question to you is why do you use the Prairie St. Bridge instead of the Rt. 64 Bridge? Too much traffic, or are you perhaps having a hard time waiting for all of the traffic lights on Route 64?
D. Niel August 27, 2011 at 11:03 PM
Nolan Day, one more point: With regards to the traffic on the Illinois and Prairie Street Bridges try counting the traffic around 3:00 - 5:00 PM Also, I did not mention, the traffic that ended up on the Prairie St. Bridge was likely people who formerly used the Illinois bridge. We have 2 bridges south of Rt. 64 because it was politically expedient, not because we needed two bridges south of Rt. 64. It is now time for those in northern St. Charles to take up some of the slack. Ask the mayor why there was no plan for a bridge near the Country Club. It was considered as a site and it was taken off the table. Power and politics go hand in hand.
Nolan Day August 28, 2011 at 12:45 PM
DJN, We really should be on at least first name basis as you seem to like to use mine so much. We Northerners would have no problem picking up the slack as you call it if car counts were up, traffic improvements on Route 64 were not in full swing, a large population lived near the RG bridge,there weren't huge safety concerns with students who are driving age at North High,Stearns Road Bridge(just 2 mi north of Red Gate)were not built and the economy was better than it has been in the last 10 years. Also improvements on the No. - So. Route 47 will lessen traffic coming from the far west as it will be used to get to 88 and 90 Tollways. Sorry, but like most I work until 5 so I cannot survey the traffic from 3-5pm. I guess as people buy homes in newer sub divisions west of Randall road they should have weighed the traffic delays if they are headed east to work. Do you really think people just north of 64 will drive up 2.5 miles to use Red Gate Bridge? Unless your are going to eat at the Hideaway you would just continue on up to Stearns Bridge. It will only really service a few west side sub divisions as those heading east will not want to go 25 MPH on Army Trail Rd versus 50 MPH on Stearns.
Nolan Day August 28, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Don't Jack Know(just a guess as I don't know your real name and you like to guess) I really try to base my comments on facts. One fact is that a teenager driving to school is a lot more dangerous than an age appropriate minor walking to school or taking the bus. If you must know my driving patterns and life style, we go use Prairie and IL St bridges to support the Wine Exchange, and hope to single handedly keep them in business, visit Grandchildren who attend Davis Elem.,drink at the House and occasionally visit my mistress(let me know if your need her exact address-Ok this one isn't fact-it would be fiction just like many of the reasons Mayor DeWitte uses to support the bridge). Never had a problem using 64 when going to Randall Rd area businesses.
D. Niel August 28, 2011 at 03:52 PM
Teenagers do not need to drive to High School, bus service is available. You have suggested no one will use the bridge anyway so traffic should not be a problem. Students living near Prairie Street do not have the option to ride a bus, the middle school students walk to school. Since the two elementary schools have been combined, the status of busing has changed. There will never be a good time or a perfect location to build a bridge, There will always be objections. Infrastructure is long term, and takes extensive planning and cooperation from many parts of government. This bridge has been long planned and sought and I am glad it is being built. Perhaps it will bring some quiet back to our part of St. Charles. You are obviously worried about my identity, perhaps you think I am an elected official or city employee. I am nobody special, just a concerned citizen and resident of St. Charles.
Nolan Day August 28, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Perhaps the children you know in high school do not have to get to a job or stay late for a sport. I'm all for safety around any school and on Prairie St. A perfect location for a bridge to dump off would be in the city that wants it. Not a neighboring village or township that does not get to vote. I'm really not worried about your identity. I can back my opinions with enough facts that I'm not embarrassed to use my full name in conjunction with my statements. I did not say no one would use the bridge, as I know Mayor DeWittle will use the bridge to get to his east side business a few minutes faster. As a concerned citizen, how can you not be concerned about $30 million dollars being spent before Stearns bridge and Route 64 improvements bare full positive impacts and want less traffic for our downtown businesses? We are talking in circles it seems. Hey, speaking of circles! Maybe we could eliminate traffic lights, tear down enough of the downtown buildings/empty storefronts and create traffic circles to speed up traffic downtown;)
Vanessa Bell-LaSota August 30, 2011 at 07:43 PM
Another old saw argument the city uses is "we have been waiting for the bridge" for 20 years, since the 70's, or for the real historians in the room, since the 1920's. They ignore that in 2011, there is a growing voice against the City proposal of issuing a $7.3M bond to fund the bridge (& as yet unbudgeted maintenance) during these tough economic times. We've been paying into the bridge fund with a slice of the municipal portion of our property taxes since 1973. Do we now want to pay even higher taxes for a bridge, (& unbudgeted bridge maintenance) that only an estimated 10% of St. Charles taxpayers are expected to use on a regular basis for local trips? At the Comp Plan task force meeting last week, the consultants in whose expertise and objectivity the city has invested their trust stated that St. Charles is not a "destination shopping" community like Geneva. They explained that our downtown shoppers are local, travel five to ten minutes, " more like five minutes." If this is true, we're building a bridge so they can shop on Randall, diverting foot traffic from our downtown biz, at a time they need it most. ( schools use Stearns, direct from Dr. Schlohman 8/10.) Now's a prudent stopping point for the city to collect & evaluate accurate data. A clearly worded comprehensive phone survey would be a cost effective alternative to a referendum. W/ facts clearly stated, long held misconceptions such as," RG Bridge will remove truck traffic from Main", would be dispelled.
Vanessa Bell-LaSota August 30, 2011 at 07:52 PM
I have lived here a total of 29 years-the last 13 in town. Self-employed, driving all times of day. Never in a back-up on Prairie. I think an anger management session for the few is more cost effective than a 30m-plus bridge paid for by us all. And don't be fooled- there is no free money-co.,state, fed.grants are coming from our pockets, too.By the way, in 1999 they called it a 10-15M bridge. Caveat emptor.
Nolan Day August 30, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Vanessa- The figure on the bridge costs changes as the Mayor see fits. I have read it was to be under $20 mn within the last two years. He also touted that it was a great move to hire an engineering company that had been involved with Stearns Rd Bridge. Please correct me if I'm way off, but I believe Stearns Rd bridge almost doubled in cost by the time it was finished. That seems like a reason NOT to contract a company. Some full disclosure would surely be no problem for all involved. Seems a bit ssa backwards to me.
D. Niel August 30, 2011 at 10:40 PM
In 1999 the estimated cost of the bridge was $17 million adjusted for inflation in 2011 that amount calculates to $23,053,265.
Vanessa Bell-LaSota August 31, 2011 at 03:19 AM
DJN, I am quoting the Chicago Tribune 3/21/99 interview of Kane County Board Chairman McCoy, quoting him, "That span would cost 10 million to 15 million and would require much less intergovernmental cooperation than a regional bridge."
D. Niel August 31, 2011 at 10:16 PM
vanessa2, I was quoting the original bridge study dated 1999. It's a primary reference available online. I think we always need to figure in the cost of inflation. Especially when it takes 12 years to complete a task.
Vanessa Bell-LaSota September 01, 2011 at 05:07 PM
DJN, Thanks, I have all related documents and anecdotal accounts by research and by FOIA, well beyond what is available online. My documents extend back through all phases of the project and those of the entire river corridor, well beyond what the city site provides. Including, from an article in the 2010 KC Chronicle, "The construction project is expected to cost between $18 million and $22 million, Koenen said." So, would inflation account for the 8-13 million increase, DJN? The facts are, the city does not know the cost of the project, because they have only a 10% partial plan to date, submitted from Benesch & Co. engineers to independent experts involved who must determine cost and safety. And the cost of safety. That is the bottom line.
D. Niel September 02, 2011 at 09:23 AM
vanessa2, your above statement says in 1999 the bridge would cost $10-15 million but the city documents from 1999 say the bridge would cost $17 million. I am using figures provided by the city to be accurate. If you take the projected $17 million dollars from1999 and adjust it with an inflation calculator (you can find one online) The cost calculates out to over 23 million dollars. So the projected cost has increased by $7 million dollars due to inflation alone! So the 18-22 million you are stating the bridge will cost i less than inflation. I am working with the facts. 23 million is in line with the original projected costs. Building a bridge might have some unknown surprises that could increase costs. I am sure you have specific information regarding potential cost overruns as well.

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