River Forest, Forest Park, and Oak Park will continue their quest to find federal money to replace the Harlem Avenue viaduct despite being turned down a second time.
For the second consecutive year, their grant application was not among those selected for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program.
“It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t continue to pursue this funding,” said Oak Park spokesman David Powers. “A significant amount of time went into putting these materials together.” Oak Park is the lead agency in this tri-village grant application.
The three communities sought $18.7 million to make the area safer for drivers and pedestrians by replacing the entire 104-year-old bridge over Harlem Avenue between North and South boulevards. Sidewalks would be widened, new lighting would be added and the area would become more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said he wasn’t surprised that they didn’t get the funding this time.
“It’s always been kind of a reach. A lot of other areas were competing for the money,” Gillian said.
Approximately 39 projects were selected to get a share of the $500 million from the highly-competitive initiative. In all, communities sent in $10 billion worth of requests for TIGER funds in 2015, Powers said.
River Forest will continue to support this so long as it is a public safety issue, said Eric Palm, River Forest’s village administrator.
The total cost, including the design engineering study, would be $25 million. Each community would provide a local share: Oak Park, $2.5 million; River Forest and Forest Park each would pay $1.25 million.
The bridge, constructed in 1911, is structurally sound, but the roadway is narrow as columns divide the north and southbound lanes on Harlem. The road is highly traveled by cars, trucks and buses, which causes its own set of backups.
A plan to improve the viaduct had been in the works for years. A 2009 feasibility study pointed to the need to revamp the viaduct to improve public safety and access to jobs and foster economic development. That study was funded by an $800,000 federal grant combined with local funding from Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.