“Endangered Neighborhood”: Barrington residents fear impact of underpass construction

More than 1,200 trees spanning six acres along Route 14 in Barrington have been felled in recent weeks, clearing the way for a long-sought underpass beneath the Canadian National Railroad tracks.

Village leaders say the $94.1 million project has been a priority for more than a decade and will provide a faster, safer ride for drivers who often find themselves caught in long delays at the tracks. It will also allay concerns about emergency vehicles getting stuck waiting for slow-moving freight trains to clear, officials say.

But while motorists eagerly await the work to be completed in about two years, not everyone is enthusiastic about the project.

Homeowners in the historic Jewel Park neighborhood north of Route 14 saw dozens of trees in their neighborhood removed and six homes destroyed – with two more facing demolition – significantly altering the look of their community.

Later this year, crews will replace the flattened homes and trees with a temporary four-lane road that will direct Route 14 traffic through the area while the underpass is constructed.

“They basically need to temporarily relocate Route 14,” said Terry Riordan, a member of the Jewel Park Homeowners Association. “And they chose to go to our neighborhood.”

The development was founded in 1925 by the Jewel Tea Co. and consists of more than 80 houses north of the underpass. Concerned about the project’s impact on their neighborhood, homeowners’ association members have met with Barrington officials several times and even walked the project area with village officials.

“This is just a huge project. We understand there is a need for this,” Riordan said. “But it has had a negative impact on a historic district, and going through a four-lane highway will endanger the district.”

Village officials say they are addressing residents’ concerns.

“The village has and will continue to work to mitigate the impacts of the property separation project to all adjacent property owners as much as possible,” said Assistant Village Administrator Marie Hansen.

But Riordan and his wife, Sue, said the meetings with Barrington officials only raised more concerns. They say residents are unhappy that the village removed the trees this spring, months before road construction was scheduled to begin.

Village officials defended the timing, pointing out that tree felling was prohibited between March 31 and October 1 to protect the endangered northern long-eared bat.

Homeowners also fear that the 24-month construction schedule is too optimistic and that the construction will also negatively impact surrounding neighborhoods.

“All we want to do is make sure the village gets this thing done as quickly, as efficiently and as safely as possible,” Riordan said.

Vehicles pass the Barrington Area Library along Route 14, where trees were cut down in preparation for construction of an underpass under the nearby Canadian National Railroad tracks.
Paul Valade/

Trees along Route 14 near the Barrington Area Library were felled in preparation for construction of an underpass under the nearby Canadian National Railroad tracks.
Paul Valade/

Trees were felled and houses were demolished along Route 14 in Barrington to clear the way for construction of an underpass under the nearby Canadian National Railroad tracks.
Paul Valade/

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