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Elburn bridge begins road to reality

ELBURN – A huge step toward easing Elburn's traffic issues was taken Monday afternoon, as state, county and village officials plunged shovels into the ground to signify the kicking off of a project that will create a crossing of the train tracks in town.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place near the intersection of Anderson Road and Prairie Valley Street, just northeast of John Stewart Elementary School in Elburn. The project will extend the road, which currently stops at the intersection, to the south.

Included will be a bridge that crosses the tracks. That will provide an alternative route in Elburn, as drivers often are forced to wait at the tracks on Route 47. A study showed that 105 trains per day pass through the village.

Elburn Village President Dave Anderson, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen, Kane County Board member Drew Frasz and Kane County engineer Carl Shoedel were among those who spoke at the event. State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, Kaneland School District 302 Superintendent Jeff Schuler, ShoDeen Inc. president Dave Patzelt and Elburn officials were among those in attendance.

Lauzen credited the spirit of cooperation that brought the project together. Schoedel said there will be more to say when the project comes in under budget and on time. Anderson thanked officials including Lauzen and Lauzen's predecessor, Karen McConnaughay. And Frasz talked of the celebration to come "a year and a half from now, when we're cutting the ribbon on this bridge."

Also at the event was Paul Holcomb, the project's manager. Holcomb explained that the intersection of Anderson Road and Route 38 will remain in the same place, but much of Anderson Road will shift to the east, and the road will not be directly next to John Stewart Elementary. Anderson Road currently stops just shy of the parking lot in front of the school.

"It will start moving gradually to the east, so it's away from the school," he said. "That's a good thing."

He said there is hope that significant construction can begin this year.

The project got the green light earlier this year, when Elburn officials agreed to annex the land on which ShoDeen will build the Elburn Station development. That construction won't begin until after the bridge is complete, and there was much debate over the project before its approval. Frasz saluted Elburn Village Board member Bill Grabarek, who played a key role in the debate that went on for months as the details were hammered out.

Grabarek was at Monday's ceremony. He acknowledged that he "made a lot of noise" about it, but he said it was only to make certain that the village was represented properly. He said the extension will be "a great benefit."

The project includes more than $21 million in state, federal and local funds, and officials have credited former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert for his role. After the ceremony, Frasz said there were times he was concerned about the project, as the village debated the plans for Elburn Station. But now that plans are moving forward, Anderson said people, in the future, will look back at this as a significant event.

"Twenty years from now, people will be astounded at how much traffic and how much activity this bridge will have," Anderson said.

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