Villages team up again on Harlem bridge request

Forest Park, River Forest and Oak Park to submit joint grant application

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Once again, the villages of Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest are teaming up to seek federal funding for a $27 million project to replace the 105-year-old viaduct at the intersection of Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard.

The three towns have previously applied for such funding but been turned down.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees recently approved a resolution directing the village to apply for a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant with the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Forest Park Village Council was expected to do the same at its meeting on Oct. 10 after the Forest Park review's press time.

The local project has not previously made the cut in the highly competitive search for TIGER grant funding. 

If federal funding does come through, it is expected to cover 80 percent of the cost of the project, according to a memo included in the Forest Park council's meeting packet on the village's website. 

The remaining cost of the project, roughly $5.4 million, would be split between the three communities – about $2.7 million to Oak Park (50 percent), and the remainder divided equally between Forest Park and River Forest.

If the grant is awarded this year, design work reportedly would begin in 2018 and construction in 2020. 

The project entails replacing the existing bridge, lowering the Harlem Avenue roadway to reduce truck strikes to the viaduct, and adding pedestrian and aesthetic enhancements, according to documents in the online council meeting packet.

The support column in the viaduct also would be removed in an effort to improve traffic flow through the underpass.

The grant application notes that the improvements to the bridge and adjacent CTA station dovetails with the introduction of several transit-oriented developments in the area.

"Together they will bring 719 new housing units to the area along with significant new retail and commercial space," the grant application notes, adding, "These new developments are expected to produce an additional 371 car trips and 161 transit trips every day, increasing the need for a Harlem Multimodal Bridge in a state of good repair." 

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