Putting a price on safety is always a risky thing to do, especially if you're a local politician. Members of the Riverside village board have been thrust into this position recently, having to choose between a pedestrian tunnel below the Burlington Northern tracks and a big pile of cash that they don't have to spend.
The BNSF railroad, which owns the tunnel (but is not responsible for its maintenance) says the tunnel is in bad shape and needs a makeover. The village has estimated that repairing the tunnel will take anywhere between $600,000 and $1.6 million for either repair or reconstruction.
Is that the best use for village funds? Probably not, but the tunnel does provide a safe way across the tracks, which serve both rail and commuter lines. And unlike a little further east down the line, trains move through Riverside at a pretty good clip.
Like some residents who are concerned about losing the tunnel for good, we'd like to encourage the Village of Riverside to investigate alternative ways of funding a new tunnel or repairing the one that already exists. Grants are certainly one avenue, and putting a little pressure on the railroad to kick in for the cause may be another.
There were a total of three deaths along the BNSF line between Harlem Avenue in Berwyn and Prairie Avenue in Brookfield in 2005. You'd like to think that the railroads would like to be able to avoid future such occurrences and maintain pedestrian underpasses where they already exist.
While the village may end up with no grant money or assistance from the BNSF, residents, we believe, would feel a whole lot better knowing that Riverside at least seriously explored those options.
New watchdog in town?
In the months since the PEP Party was ushered back into power in Brookfield, the rival VIP Party has made a couple of attempts to make its voice heard.
The first was a rather clumsy attempt to get the State's Attorney's office involved in what VIP called an illegal transfer of funds. Trouble was, while the transfers were listed as part of the village's 2005-06 budget, no funds actually had been transferred.
The second is a complaint to the Illinois Attorney General's Office about the lack of minutes for the Brookfield budget workshops held by the village board last summer. That's a legitimate issue. The minutes don't exist and should have been provided.
That VIP would shine a light on that shortcoming is admirable and that the party is dedicated to greater openness in local government is laudatory. We're sure that VIP will be keeping watch for the residents of Brookfield in the future.
Of course, we wish that VIP would have come to this point of view several years ago, when they were in power. And if they gain power again in the future, we would, of course, encourage them to keep the torch of transparency lit.
Former VIP trustee Wil Brennan says that he's just holding PEP to the same standards that PEP held VIP. And that's fine. It'll be interesting to see if VIP will endeavor to keep itself to those same standards.
If not, it's just politics as usual in Brookfield.