Riverside’s village board voted unanimously on April 3 to bypass creating an ad hoc committee of residents and officials to study the feasibility of a First Avenue bridge or underpass at Forest Avenue and give the task to the village’s Safe Environment Commission.

The idea of building a bridge or underpass at First Avenue in order to give students a safe way to cross the state highway is not a new one. A decade ago or more, the idea got as far as an architect’s rendering of what a bridge over the street might look like.

But with momentum building for the construction of a bicycle/pedestrian path connecting Riverside-Brookfield High School with 26th Street along First Avenue, local officials have decided to give the bridge/underpass concept a formal look.

“The Safe Environment Commission … is the commission specifically formed for exactly this kind of study,” said Village President Ben Sells in suggesting the idea to the village board at their meeting, April 3.

Foregoing an ad hoc committee, however, did not set well with Riverside resident Randy Brockway, who has been calling on the village to support the idea of a bridge/underpass at First Avenue since early 2011.

“I don’t like the sound of it at all,” said Brockway in an email to the Landmark a day after the board’s decision to ship the study to the Safe Environment Commission. “It was to be an ad hoc committee, free from existing committee politics and structure. Until I see the committee set up with people who are truly engaged, I will be skeptical.”

 But Sells said the Safe Environment Commission will be able to provide a dispassionate look at the feasibility of a bridge or underpass.

“You want an honest, objective opinion, not something driven by a predetermined agenda,” said Sells in an interview Monday.

Riverside Trustee Doug Pollock, who brought the idea of an ad hoc committee to the board table, said he would support the Safe Environment Commission leading the study as long as others, like Brockway, who have worked on the idea have a voice in the process.

“I’m very impressed with the ideas that I’ve heard from people and have gotten me excited about the possibilities here,” Pollock said. “I’m OK with working this under our existing structure … as long as it’s understood there’s a lot of people in this community who have a lot of background on this topic and a lot of knowledge. … And I’d like them to be involved in this process.”

Trustee Patricia Collins supported Pollock’s suggestion to open up the process to others as well.

“There’s a lot of people who want to be involved in it,” Collins said. “I’d like it to be opened up … to allow other people to have input.”

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