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Pedestrian bridge to fun and profit
Link to Prairie Path and CTA Blue Line likely to open in fall

By Victoria Pierce
Special to the Tribune
Published August 24, 2006

Two cranes carefully lifted separate spans of a pedestrian bridge into place over the Des Plaines River Wednesday, speeding the day when thousands of bicyclists, lawyers and residents of the western suburbs will be closer to their destinations.

The bridge, which is expected to open in the fall, will link the Illinois Prairie Path with the CTA's Blue Line.

Click On Image For Larger Version
The New Bridge, Linking Chicago to the Western World!

Bridge construction (Tribune photo by Antonio Perez)
August 24, 2006

Cyclists will be able to take the Blue Line to the last stop in Forest Park where they can pedal as far as Elgin or Aurora. Likewise, west suburban bicyclists will be able to tour the lakefront without using their cars to get downtown.

And for many employees and patrons of the Maybrook courthouse in Maywood, the bridge will provide a short walk from the "L" line to the courthouse on the west bank of the Des Plaines River in Maywood.

"A lot of people take the train to get to the courthouse. They'd either have to hop on a bus or take a long walk around. That's a huge convenience factor," said Maywood Village Manager Robert Nelis.

Although crews from K&K Ironworks in Chicago deftly maneuvered the sections into place and bolted them together Wednesday, the 190-foot bridge won't be open until a path leading to the iron structure is built and several security measures are completed, said Forest Park Village Manager Michael Sturino. An Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman said the bridge likely will be opened in late October.

Among the safety measures will be lighting and emergency call boxes. The bridge also will be able to accommodate a patrol car if necessary.

"There's a full-blown Sheriff's Department right by the courthouse," Sturino said.

The villages of Forest Park and Maywood are already envisioning the possibilities the bridge will bring to their communities.

Forest Park is looking to attract recreational cyclists to the village's main stretch of shops and restaurants on Madison Street, Sturino said, noting that bicyclists like to explore new areas.

"We're really excited about it," he said.

Click On Image For Larger Version Lots of rides, not many on roads!

Nelis said Maywood sees the potential for easy access to downtown Chicago. And the village has long hoped to redevelop the 30-acre ComEd facility between 1st Avenue and the courthouse into a shopping district. Access to transportation and proximity to the Prairie Path will be important factors for economic redevelopment, he said.

Fans of the Illinois Prairie Path are also happy the final link will be in place -- after many years of discussion.

"The No. 1 question I'm asked in Oak Park is how do we get to the Prairie Path?" said Paul Aeschleman of Oak Park, a board member of the not-for-profit Illinois Prairie Path organization that cares for the trail.

The route to the path from the Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest areas is now a convoluted combination of side streets. With the bridge connecting the two sides of what was once a railroad right of way, that route will be much easier to pick up, Aeschleman said.

The Old, Hard Way!

Aeschleman said he has met over the years with local officials in Forest Park and Maywood about getting a bridge. He credited state Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood) with finally securing the $540,000 needed for the project.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is building the bridge, although the project required an intergovernmental agreement between Maywood, Forest Park, Cook County, the CTA and the state.

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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