Transportation grants announced

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By BILL DWYER

The recently announced $4.8 million in federal appropriations earmarked for an engineering study of a possible cap over the Eisenhower Expressway has been the center of local attention lately. But several other long planned local projects will be funded as part of the massive $238 billion federal transportation bill signed into law recently. River Forest, Oak Park and Forest Park will receive money for several long awaited projects important to local planning efforts.

At a press conference Friday in Bellwood attended by Forest Park Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz, the Village Presidents of River Forest and Oak Park, Congressman Danny K. Davis announced a total of $14 million in grants to eight west suburbs and areas on the west side of Chicago.

Forest Park will receive $750,000 for improvements to Circle Ave. Mayor Anthony Calderone said that the Village first requested the grant "at least a couple years ago," and that the money would be put towards resurfacing the road. Calderone said the portion of the road to be resurfaced would stretch "at least from Roosevelt to Jackson."

"According to our engineers, the road is in poor shape and for ($750,000), we'd never have that kind of money in our own budget," he said.

Forest Park also indirectly received $1 million for engineering work on rebuilding the railroad over pass at Harlem Ave. While the grant money will formally go to River Forest, the project has involved Oak Park and Forest Park from its inception, since the structure sits in part in all three municipalities.

River Forest and Forest Park chipped in $10,000 each, Oak Park $20,000 and the state $40,000 for a feasibility study back in 2000. The current grant will allow formal engineering work to begin on plans to widen and raise the structure, which sees 60,000 vehicles pass under it each day. In all, the bridge is expected to cost around $10 million, with some 20 per cent of that engineering costs.

Besides the bridge's pass through height being shorter than the 14 foot IDOT standard, the bridge's over all width and an obstructive center support are considered problematic by local planners.

"You can't drive a car and a truck through at the same time," said Oak Park Village President David Pope.

Progress on several planned improvements is contingent on a more efficient rebuilt over pass.

"The Downtown Oak Park Plan anticipates improvements to the underpass," said Pope.

Besides raising the height, plans call for five traffic lanes, including left turn lanes.

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