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Residents air concerns over 95th Street extension

Dozens of Naperville and Bolingbrook are residents turned out to a meeting on plans for a 95th Street extension.  (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

Dozens of Naperville and Bolingbrook are residents turned out to a meeting on plans for a 95th Street extension. (Melissa Jenco/Tribune)

Tensions ran high this week as Naperville and Bolingbrook area residents gathered to hear about plans for an extension of 95th Street.

Dozens of residents showed up at a public meeting Monday night that was meant to be an open-house style update on the project where people could talk one-on-one with engineers. But residents demanded an open forum to ask questions and voice concerns among the whole group.

The 95th Street extension project, which was first conceived more than two decades ago, will connect Plainfield-Naperville and Boughton roads and provide a new bridge over the DuPage River. The roadway will be two lanes in each direction with a speed limit of 40 mph, a sidewalk and bike path.

Plans also call for intersection improvements at 95th Street and Plainfield-Naperville Road and 95th Street/Kings Road and Boughton Road. There will be a sound wall constructed along the Naperville portion of the roadway.

In 2001, The Will County Department of Highways, the lead agency on the project, Naperville and Bolingbrook entered an intergovernmental agreement for the work.

An extension of 95th Street would provide a link between Plainfield-Naperville Road and the intersection of Boughton and Kings roads. (Michelle Manchir/Tribune)

County Engineer Bruce Gould said 2002 traffic counts used to make projections about traffic patterns in 2030 justify the need to build the extension and alleviate some of the pressure on area roadways.

Officials say the extension will reduce the driving distance between the Plainfield-Naperville and Boughton roads by about 1.1 miles and save motorists time and gas.

But critics like Scott Bishop of Naperville believe predictions of the roadway alleviating traffic are “terribly exaggerated,” and they fear people will start cutting through their neighborhoods presenting safety concerns.

“People are going to get lost, flying because they’re late and they’re lost,” he said. “We just don’t need it for 1.1 miles.”

David Gillham who lives in the Hickory Oaks subdivision in Bolingbrook, also is worried about safety as his backyard faces the right of way. In addition, he questions the county’s traffic counts since they were performed in 2002.

“I’m concerned they haven’t done their homework,” he said. “The data they’re basing this on was before the housing crash, before they widened other roads.”

He called the project a “waste of money.”

Including engineering costs, the project is expected to carry roughly a $33 million price tag. Federal funds will cover about $11 million of the cost. Of the remaining costs, Will County will pick up half and Naperville and Bolingbrook each will pick up a quarter.

During a question-and-answer session marked by interruptions and shouting, county officials tried to address residents’ concerns.

Engineers stood by their traffic counts saying the focus is not on recent years, but 2030. As for funding, Will County Board Member Charles “Chuck” Maher said the county’s portion will come from RTA sales tax money that can only be spent for roads and safety. He also said the county has enough money to maintain the new roadway, which had been an issue of concern for some Naperville councilmen who said they didn’t want to get stuck footing a maintenance bill.

“We (the county) can afford to take ownership of that road and not have one dime come out of any of our homes over the next umpteen years, in perpetuity of this project,” Maher said.

Former Naperville City Councilman Dick Furstenau provided some history on the project for those in attendance Monday and said he believes it will benefit Naperville.

“I believe it’s going to bring more people to Naperville and anything we pick up in sales tax is going to help the real estate taxes on your house,” he said.

Residents also have complained they knew little about the project until recently, but county officials say it has been in the works for years and was already anticipated when the nearby subdivisions were built. Monday’s meeting was the eighth in the past four years.

Maher said he believes at least as many people are in favor of the project as those against it, but critics contend the proponents don’t live near the road.

Crews already have done engineering and design work and an archaeological survey. The county recently started the process of acquiring the necessary land for the project. Officials say they expect to perform most of the construction in 2013 and 2014.

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