Winnetka tunnel discussion flows toward Willow
Updated: December 23, 2012 6:13AM
WINNETKA — The discussion of stormwater management projects in Winnetka appeared to take a few baby-steps forward after the village council’s Nov. 13 study session.
Seeking to build a large, underground tunnel to carry stormwater out to Lake Michigan, staff were instructed to look at building the tunnel underneath either Willow Road or Ash Street. After costs and construction methods were discussed, the council appears to view Willow Road as the way to go.
At a cost of roughly $34.5 million, a Willow Road tunnel would cost slightly less than the almost $35 million for a tunnel underneath Ash Street.
“The staff recommendation, when you look at it, Willow Road makes more sense both from a cost perspective and an overall impact on the community,” Village Engineer Steve Saunders said.
Saunders asked for direction from the council to begin preparing a request for proposal for the work in order to, “keep the process moving.” The plan is to have the request for proposals ready for when the village approves the project.
Saunders also hopes a project this large will attract national firms to join the bidding, calling a tunnel this large, “a very attractive project.”
A Willow Road tunnel would run from Glendale Avenue, east into Lake Michigan. Areas north and south of Willow Road would feed into the 96-inch tunnel as a major solution to the village’s flood problems.
Resident Bob Footlik felt the village, in pursuing a project this large, should also look outside its boundaries before it is implemented.
“I’m astonished there’s been no mention of traffic flow on Willow versus Ash,” Footlik said. “Willow Road is a major east/west route to the expressway and Green Bay Road. I’m somewhat astonished the village has not contacted the various entities that will be affected by effectively quadrupling the outflow into the lake.”
Footlik was concerned area beaches could face more closures as more stormwater is dumped into Lake Michigan, and said Winnetka needs to be in contact with their neighbors Glencoe, Kenilworth, Wilmette and Evanston.
“Everybody is affected by what you put in the lake,” Footlik said. “We need to bring them into the process right now.”
The village met with various regulatory agencies and the tunnel project could tie-in with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s own Willow Road construction project, Saunders said.
“What we got from those agencies is that the project is feasible and we’re heading in the right direction,” Saunders said.
The council later heard from Donohue Associates about possible funding options, including bonds, taxes and stormwater fees.
Village president Jessica Tucker said the village needs more feedback from residents moving forward as the decisions are made on how to pay the millions of dollars needed for the projects.