In August, Ride Illinois encouraged Illinois Prairie Path users to attend an important DuPage County DOT meeting on the proposed rerouting of the Aurora Branch, between the IPP-Batavia Spur and Eola Road. Trail advocates had feared the county’s project would mean closure of a section of the 61-mile trail system, one of the earliest rail-to-trail conversions in America.
Contrary to what was widely interpreted from previous communications, staff and consultants at the August 3rd public meeting reported that the IPP-Aurora Branch segment would not close, and that a new trail adjacent to Eola Road would be an additional connection between the Aurora and Batavia branches.
In 2010, DuPage County and other agencies initially re-routed the IPP-Aurora Branch around a previous railroad crossing, due to a second storage track siding added by new owner Canadian National. It was thought that the 2010 interim route and a larger section of the Aurora Branch would close after the Eola Connector was done. A recent Naperville Sun article and map detailed the re-route’s motivation, alternatives, and proposal. Ride Illinois and other advocates would like to see a tunnel under the railroad, if at all feasible. This would be a better trail experience than the cheaper option being proposed, which includes a trail along Eola Road.
County Board Chairman Dan Cronin responded to a Ride Illinois letter regarding the issue, verifying that “DuPage County has no plans to close or eliminate any portion of the existing Aurora Branch.” DuPage Division of Transportation head Chris Snyder then re-confirmed this, alleviated other concerns, and explained why an expensive tunnel under the tracks was not pursued.
Ride Illinois has offered design suggestions to improve safety along the new Eola Connector, as well as advice on grant strategies to lessen the cost of a tunnel, still seen as the best long-term solution.