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By Mariel E Demler, Special from the West Suburban Journal

Construction of a pedestrian bridge across the Des Plaines River to join the end of the CTA Blue Line in Forest Park with the Maybrook courthouse facilities in Maywood and the Illinois Prairie Path is scheduled to begin in April.

The announcement was made Friday at a joint press conference and groundbreaking ceremony hosted by Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-7th), and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Timothy Martin at Legal Grounds Coffee in Maywood.

“This has been a long time coming!” Yarbrough said of the project, now seven years in the making. “But we are finally doing it, and we are going to get it done.”

The first official action on the project was taken five years ago with a resolution issued by 28th Ward Alderman Ed Smith before the Chicago City Council.

The resolution called for the “construction of a pedestrian bridge to directly connect the east and west banks of the Des Plaines River between the Forest Park Terminus and the Maywood Courthouse,” and was passed in February 2001.

The years since have seen a collaborative effort between the villages of Maywood and Forest Park, the CTA, the Chicago City Council, IDOT and many others to make the much-needed project a reality.

According to Smith’s resolution, there is currently no easy way for the large numbers of people who use public transportation every day to travel from the suburbs or the city of Chicago to the Maybrook Square Complex.

To travel a relatively short distance from the end of the Blue Line to the complex, people must walk or take a bus a considerable distance to find a bridge that does cross the Des Plaines River.

By public transport, this means taking the number 320 PACE bus ” which runs only once per hour in each direction ” all the way north to Madison Street, or south to the Eisenhower Expressway or Roosevelt Road.

The new bridge will provide a path directly to the courthouse facilities and will be less than a quarter of a mile away from the Blue Line stop in Forest Park.

Engineer Mark Lucas plans for construction to begin April 1 and hopes for the $500,000 project, funded by a grant from the IDOT Operation Green Light Grant Program, to be completed by the end of July.

Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone said he sees the bridge, which will be built half in Maywood and half in Forest Park, as an important link between the two villages.

“It is really important to bring our two communities together,” Calderone said. “We just can’t wait until the bridge is built.”

Forest Park and Maywood have agreed to alternate years maintaining the bridge.

CTA Board Chairman Carole Brown said she is most excited about the project because it will allow the CTA to provide better service to its Forest Park riders.

“This will make the commute easier, more stress-free and better for our environment,” she commented.

The bridge will also allow the Illinois Prairie Path (IPP), a 61-mile hiking, biking, equestrian and nature trail in Cook, DuPage and Kane Counties, to be extended one mile east to the CTA terminal in Forest Park.

The IPP route currently runs from Maywood to Wheaton, with branches to Elgin and Aurora.

Executive Director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Rob Sadowsky said he thinks the bridge will improve the safety of cyclists and pedestrians by allowing them to avoid busy streets and major intersections.

“This is a symbol of an effort towards a safer world where you can walk and bicycle everywhere,” Sadowsky said. “I can’t wait to be able to take my bike from Logan Square and ride it all the way down the Prairie Path to this bridge.”