Special from the West Suburban Journal
It has been a long process filled with obstacles, but it seems everything is now linking together for the Des Plaines River footbridge in Maybrook Square, which would connect to the CTA Blue Line station in Forest Park.

With construction on the bridge due to begin next spring, Maywood Village Manager Robert Nelis approves of the project. “This will make it easy for people who have to get to the court system,” Nelis said.

The project will also include connector trails to the Illinois Prairie Path creating a walking link between the Cook County courthouse in Maywood and the CTA Blue Line station in Forest Park. Construction of the bridge still has to go through a bid process before a cost can be estimated, but a state grant of about $540,000 will fund it. Maywood engineer Hancock Engineering, is waiting for the final approval from IDOT.

According to Forest Park Village Administrator Michael Sturino, the two villages have decided to alternate years cleaning and maintaining the bridge rather than finding a dividing line somewhere in the center.

Paul Aeschleman, volunteer member on the project and bicycle enthusiast, said several factors delayed the construction of the bridge, which is over seven years in the making. One is the high turnover rate of Maywood’s village managers.

“What’s a priority with one person does not necessarily become a priority with the next person,” Aeschleman said.

He said the greatest factor was the lack of citizen involvement in the project and theorized the majority of people in Maywood or Forest Park do not know the project exists. “There hasn’t been a groundswell, per se, of citizen involvement,” Aeshleman said.

He said it was not until State Representative Karen Yarbrough became involved with the project a couple of years ago, that completion became a real possibility.

Aeschleman said the bridge will provide economic and quality of life benefits to the residents. “The biggest benefit is the potential to reduce traffic and congestion,” he said.

Nelis the bridge and path extension will attract more visitors and consumers. He said a new restaurant along the path, Legal Grounds, might see increased business. “Anything that encourages economic development is a good thing,” Nelis said.

Aeschleman does not expect any increased crime along the path when more people use it, but warns against using it late at night.

“The path is safe as any other street or sidewalk,” he said.