Too many projects to fund with too few resources. That sums up why a safety-related infrastructure project failed to get funding this year, according to local officials.
For the third time, the communities of Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest did not get federal dollars to upgrade the deteriorating Harlem Avenue viaduct through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program.
Cara Pavlicek, village manager of Oak Park, which served as the project’s lead agencies, said while the village wasn’t officially notified it did not get the grant, the names of the three communities did not show up on lists of projects that were released earlier this month.
While noting that the viaduct project is a strong one, Pavlicek said she hopes it will be an important one for federal transportation authorities, considering that the Eisenhower Expressway could undergo reconstruction in the coming years and that Harlem Avenue will need to be able to handle the truck traffic that may use the roadway as an alternate route.
Whether the villages could re-apply may depend on the kind of commitment the federal government will place on infrastructure.
“Then [Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park] will collectively see what the best strategy will be,” Pavlicek said.
In an email, River Forest Village President Catherine Adduci said it was unfortunate that the request for federal funds to fix the Harlem viaduct continues to be denied.
The 104-year-old railroad bridge spanning Harlem Avenue is a block south of Lake Street at a location where the three communities share a border. A TIGER grant would increase clearance under the bridge, reducing the potential for large trucks striking the bridge, incidents which lead to huge traffic back-ups and detours. Improved sidewalks and lighting would brighten the area. The project would also address ADA accessibility.
The total cost, including the design engineering study, will be about $26.1 million. Local communities would have kicked in about $5.2 million toward the project.
The grant program is are highly-competitive. TIGER grants are discretionary dollars that fund surface transportation infrastructure, including multi-jurisdictional efforts that have a significant impact on the nation, region or metropolitan area.
This year, some 40 projects around the country received $500 million in TIGER grants. Approximately 585 projects totaling $9.3 billion vied for grants, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.