Plans change for tollway noise walls

The installation of new noise walls as part of the widening of the Central Tri-State won’t happen until after the old ones are removed, contrary to a deal Hinsdale and Illinois Tollway officials worked out several years ago to minimize the impact on residents.

Instead, as explained by a Tollway representative at the Feb. 1 village board meeting, a temporary 8-foot wooden fence will be erected along the western side of the highway after the existing noise wall is torn down.

“Once the temporary fencing is installed, we anticipate completing a shift of the southbound traffic to the east,” Jeff Allen, deputy chief of program implementation, told trustees. “This will allow the contractor to access the work zone from the tollway side ... and significantly reduce the need to utilize local roads or Village of Hinsdale streets for any construction activities.”

The new walls subsequently will be installed. Village President Tom Cauley said the intergovernmental agreement between the village and the state agency regarding Tri-State expansion was reached before project details had been fleshed out.

“Now that the tollway has been designed, in a lot of areas, that is unworkable,” Cauley said of the altered wall plan. “There’s just not enough room to build a new sound wall and then take down the old sound wall afterwards.”

Trustee Luke Stifflear, however, pressed Allen on going back on the agreement.

“We had that to the letter that the new sound walls were going to go up before the old ones were taken down,” Stifflear said. “We’re going to have to report to our constituents why that’s not the case.”

Allen noted that new walls are up in one area.

“We are pleased to report that we were able to successfully complete the installation of noise walls in advance near Peirce Park to avoid impacts to the local Little League baseball season,” he said.

The $4 billion widening project extends from Balmoral Avenue in the north to 95th Street in the south to address increasing congestion on the roadway. Reconstructing the BNSF bridge and building the pedestrian walkway along 47th Street linking Hinsdale and Western Springs were early components of the multi-year undertaking. Allen said a majority of the project is done, including concrete and noise wall work on the Western Springs side.

“As of now, we have successfully completed about 70 percent of the corridor construction,” he reported.

Work on the Hinsdale side is expected to start in the spring, weather dependent. The temporary fence, intended to screen the work zone from residents’ view, is anticipated to be up for at least six months. Installation of new noise walls will need to navigate factors such as underground storm infrastructure and retaining walls, which require the walls be structure mounted rather than in the ground.

“Our goal is to complete this work as quickly as possible,” Allen said.

Allen said he noise walls adhere to or surpass Federal Highway Administration guidelines.

“The height of the new walls will be equal to or greater than the current walls,” he said.

Allen informed trustees that Tollway officials have scheduled three meetings with residents of the affected area in the coming weeks.

Trustee Michelle Fisher urged the agency to be proactive in communicating updates to homeowners and the village. Residents also can express concerns through the Tollway’s 24-hour hotline at (630) 246-2930. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2025.

“We respect the concerns of the community and remain dedicated to minimizing disruptions to the village and its residents, while understanding that it is a major reconstruction project,” Allen said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean