Oak Park awarded $1.1 million grant for improvements around Harlem CTA station

Grant funding slated for transit-supportive gateway project


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

A federal grant totaling more than $1.1 million, awarded to the Village of Oak Park, will help link Oak Park's downtown CTA station with the surrounding retail and commercial area on Marion Street and South Boulevard.

The funds will target the area adjacent to the Green Line station in downtown Oak Park, with improvements running west from Marion Street along South Boulevard to Harlem Avenue. In addition to enhancing the area for surface transportation and pedestrian travel, the grant also will help pay for replacing deteriorated underground infrastructure, some of which dates to the 1800s.

The Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program announced the grant on Aug. 2. The program provides up to 80 percent of the funding for comprehensive initiatives like Oak Park's Transit Gateway project.

"This project will help make Oak Park an even more livable and sustainable community, and I thank President [David] Pope and the entire village board for their leadership," U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said in a news release. "By leveraging federal dollars, Oak Park will attract new private investment and sustainable development that create and retain jobs. This is exciting news for Oak Park, which stands to be a regional model for local revitalization that incorporates transit, walking, biking and economic development."

The $1.1 million grant was part of $363 million announced last week from the office of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Around 1,500 requests totaling $2.5 billion were received, of which the amount actually awarded is a fraction.

Rob Cole, assistant village manager, said the project fits in with Oak Park's commitment to promoting transit options that focus on promoting public transportation and pedestrian-friendly options.

Cole said the grant can help build on the village's previous streetscape projects on South and North Marion streets. It can also help expand the purpose of the enhancement and spur growth in the area. The project, he said, will support the existing infrastructure and helps reduce the overall costs of future streetscape improvements.

Because discussions have been focused statewide on highway transit options, Cole said it's refreshing to see alternatives being invested in. Overall, the project can produce regional and local benefits, Cole said.

"It's really great to see, at least from a policy standpoint, an interest in these types of projects," he said.

Pope agreed, saying the federal transportation officials are increasingly supportive of the type of strategic, transit-supportive reinvestments Oak Park is pursuing.

"The federal government has a direct financial interest in supporting strategies that lead to reinvestment in established, infrastructure-rich communities like Oak Park that often comprise older inner-ring suburban corridors," Pope said. "The alternative of devoting resources singularly to building new highways in ever more remote, low-density areas has been shown over the past several decades to simply perpetuate sprawl, which then creates its own increasing demand for yet more investment."

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

David Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2012 12:05 AM

The money is going to be spent somewhere by someone already. As much as I hate politicians, especially ones in leadership positions in OP, they would be remiss if they didn't claw and scratch for some of the money that we all pay into the system. That being seid, ALL applications should be public information after they are submitted.

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2012 9:59 PM

Q from Oak Park, when the board solicits donors to add a personal name on each brick, I'll make sure I'll purchase one in your name. This way, you can't complain of the amount of money that I spent on your behalf (or how the taxpayer is getting the short end of the stick)! But fear not, I will now expect you to say something FUNNY! SPEAK NOW, you have my permission!

j.oak park  

Posted: August 7th, 2012 5:57 AM

@oh yes, I am very happy that voted no to spending 100k to bump out corners at onterio and op ave, last night. I am very concerned that you hero johnson was for it. you like the johnson, I bet.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2012 10:48 PM

Jack Chalabian, thank you. We should know which way the bricks go in the next month if they want to get them in for Winter.

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2012 6:16 PM

Q from Oak Park,I'm really digging your comments! YOU'RE A FUNNY GUY!

Oh YES!!!!  

Posted: August 6th, 2012 11:39 AM

Its a lose lose for the curmudgeons. Nothing OP does, says or tries to do will satisfy a group of cantankerous curmudgeons.


Posted: August 6th, 2012 11:12 AM

I think the stations On Oak Park Avenue and Ridgeland need more improvements than the other station.

Johnny Sevier  

Posted: August 6th, 2012 10:59 AM

Q, my friend, you do not disappoint! Your reward/penalty: you have to go on being you.

Doug from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2012 8:03 AM

I hope this will include a very simple improvement - a swing out lane for buses at Harlem and South Boulevard. This will eliminate buses idling at the curb from blocking a lane of Harlem.


Posted: August 5th, 2012 11:32 PM

Oh YES!!!!, Is that the definition of anyone who opposes what Pope and the Village Board does? Anyone in opposition is lambasted with name calling by the machine. Childish.

Oh YES!!!!  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 10:24 PM

Keep those curmudgeons busy........Def:a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 2:17 PM

Here's how the money could be spent. Replace underground infrastructure: Replace sewer running East of Marion street to the East end of Loro Auto Works. Enhance surface transportation: Resurface with bricks to East end of Loro Auto Works. Pedestrian travel: New sidewalks to the East end of Loro Auto Works. Or it could be West from Marion street to the alley. Either way will satisfy the grant because it is within the area of the CTA.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 2:05 PM

Alan Reed, read Enuf is Enuf. You won't know anything until Pope and Raymond know what they are doing with the money. As for winning a grant, where do you think the money comes from for the grant? The debt needs to be paid down, or the 1.1 million could be used for more weapons on the fight against, well, I'm not sure what that fight is against, but it must be against something or our Military be there. It's not just to keep making the war machine richer.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 10:27 AM

@AlanReed: the awarded grant was based on the project description included in the village's grant application, and is based on conformance to that description, as well as req'd. matching funds. Therefore, any public input at this point is likely too late. Other than a press release, the village continues to remain mum on the project scope and cost. Tomorrow night's village board meeting agenda doesn't include the awarded project, nor has it been posted on the village website

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 10:03 AM

Q -- I really will be the first one to jump on Village Board when they do something silly, but I don't see how winning a grant is a bad thing. When we see the plans, we can certainly provide comments (which, I agree, may not actually be listened to), and make sure that what is being done makes sense for OP and is a good use of the dollars. If it doesn't turn out this way, I will happily join you in lambasting those responsible. Until then, let's be happy that we have a Village Board that is trying to do anything.

We know Q  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 9:49 AM

I think the money should be given to Q so he/she can build a bridge in RF at the end of Division Ave. dead ending into the forest preserve.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 12:29 AM

brickmaster, only Pope and Raymond control Oak Park, so the trustees can continue to show up because they don't count. Good idea to limit Pope and Raymond to two terms but they are going to rule on it and they are the only two that can make that decision.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 5th, 2012 12:27 AM

Enuf is Enuf, Pope and Raymond don't need to get anyone's approval or have to answer to anyone. They run Oak Park, like they want too.


Posted: August 4th, 2012 11:52 PM

There should be a two term limit for Oak Park Village President and Trustee. After eight years people acquire too much power to do as they please. Vote them out!!


Posted: August 4th, 2012 8:33 PM

I see it as Enuf is up by 6, with an assist by Mr. Gockel. Pope and Ray Jay, 0. OP Tax payers -$200grand. Lombard Blue line entrance still smells like pee, even after the free cleansing rain.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 5:47 PM

At the Mar. 21, 2005 Board mtg., Trustee Kostopulos proposed an amendment to Resolution No. 2005-R-102 creating the Downtown Design Commission, comprised of historic preservation, community, architects and downtown property owners. It was approved by the board 6-1. Were they informed of the USDOT TCSP grant application? Was the Plan Commission? Was the village board? Who's in charge? Garnering external funding does not allow anyone to bypass current public process.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 5:40 PM

Galen Gockel, you won't find what Pope and Raymond are going to do with the 1.1 million, and Pope and Raymond hired their friends so Pope and Raymond could try for another grant that Oak Park did not have the 17 million to back it if they did receive it, so now Pope and Raymond are posting are terrific this one is and still hiding what Pope and Raymond want to spend it on. Make sure to vote new people in at election time.


Posted: August 4th, 2012 4:26 PM

Oak Park 6. Curmudgeons 0.

Galen Gockel from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 4:06 PM

Regardless of one's a priori political bias, all citiens deserve to know what kinds of work is envisaged in that area. The village must have submitted a grant application which must be in the public domain. For example, that part of town was included in the Master Plan for downtown OP(a/k/a the Crandall Arambula plan) for which we paid over $250K in 2004-2005 and which languishes on various shelves (including mine!)


Posted: August 4th, 2012 3:47 PM

I like the bricks on Marion Street.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 3:43 PM

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park, it's none of anyone's business what Pope and Raymond want. They make their decisions without anyone knowing until all of the contracts are signed.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 3:41 PM

Alan Reed, it is just fantastic news isn't it. Pope and Raymond take money instead of helping the government lower the debt. With the money, they will now be able to add more bricks, or whatever they want to do with it. It certainly won't be spent on anything that will benefit anyone except Pope, Raymond and friends, and that really isn't new news, it's the same news.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 3:01 PM

Great news. I look forward to seeing the plans for what the grant will be spent on. I'm sure that whatever it is will be welcomed by all Oak Parkers.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 12:39 PM

According to the USDOT TCSP website, the grant application, entitled "Oak Park Marion South Transit Gateway Project", is described as; "TCSP funds will add new car-sharing facilities (including an electric vehicle-charging station), enhance parking adjacent to an Oak Park area's transit station and improve pedestrian and bicycle amenities." As per their promise of openness and transparency, the village should post the entire application on their website.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 10:46 AM

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park, Pope and Raymond can pass anyone by. They have and they do. Not many people are reading this story correctly. They think it's to improve the CTA. The writer only printed the the Pope and Raymond public relations release. It says nothing about what the money is really being used for.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 9:44 AM

1. On the 100th birthday of Milton Friedman, it is important to recall his famous dictum, "there's no such thing as a free lunch." Whether on the local, state or federal level, if government spends a dollar, that dollar has to come from producers and workers in the private economy. The transfer of $1.1M from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation to the Village of Oak Park is merely transferring the provision of dollars from taxpayers in the private economy.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 9:43 AM

2. Given the federal deficit is over $15 trillion and the transportation infrastructure is over $3 trillion in deferred maintenance, the question is not how many dollars can the village garner from the federal government, but rather, is this local project worthy of $1.1M of federal taxpayer dollars relative to other transportation needs of national interest? Based on the limited project description from this article, it is not possible to evaluate the project on this basis.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 9:43 AM

3. Also, are local matching funds being used for this federal grant? According to USDOT, the Federal share shall be no more than 80% of project costs. Who is funding the remaining 20% ($280,000)? The village application is required to indicate the amounts and sources of any private or other public funding being provided as part of this project. Since there is no such thing as a free lunch, more info is needed concerning this project.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 9:42 AM

4. Lastly, since public funds are being used on a public project, was this USDOT grant application open and transparent to the entire village board and public process, or only Pope and staff? Why are funds being expended only to the new downtown intermodal transit area, rather then neighborhood CTA station areas which are in an advanced state of deterioration? The ability of garnering federal funds does not allow one to bypass the public process re. planning and development.


Posted: August 4th, 2012 9:03 AM

Good news. The station and the street can use some improvement.


Posted: August 4th, 2012 7:52 AM

I think it is great that the best looking cta station will look better with 1.1 million fed money and 200 grand of our money...gulp. Wait free money just isn't free, is it? Anyway the good news is that all the other areas around the cta stations in OP will look like crap and, very literally, smell like pee.

L Garcia from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 6:39 AM

I'm very happy to see the federal government investing in our town like this! This is a good day for Oak Park and the surrounding communities.


Posted: August 4th, 2012 5:54 AM

meant to say add one at Oak Park Avenue


Posted: August 4th, 2012 5:50 AM

Let's walk the walk - add an elevator here. Right now those in wheelchairs have two options on the green line; Austin and Harlem.

A Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: August 4th, 2012 12:18 AM

Can you really complain about improving the infrastructure? Especially near public transportation! Really?? Please explain.


Posted: August 3rd, 2012 11:47 PM

What I mean is they can use the money anywhere along the blue or green line. The station at Marion to Harlem was renovated in the last 10 years.


Posted: August 3rd, 2012 11:41 PM

Q, then the board needs pressure from the residents to spread the wealth to the rest of the transit areas in the village and not use it all in their little Fairyland they have created.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 11:34 PM

Stine, all Pope and Raymond do is search what grants are available and ask for the money. The grants need to be something they want, and if there are greats to help with fixing Oak Park, that just something they aren't interested in.


Posted: August 3rd, 2012 11:18 PM

Great. Once again this area of Oak Park gets an upgrade. Just did the south Marion street project. One of the Oak Park politicians must live around this area. The other areas and in very poor condition. Does anyone know what happened to the grafitti hotline? Now seeing gang signs--called VOP and still there.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 11:15 PM

brickmaster, it probably could be used in any area that is close to the CTA. It is not money from the CTA, and it is not required to use for anything to improve CTA properties. Pope and Raymond will decide what they want to spend it on.


Posted: August 3rd, 2012 10:40 PM

Imagine what could be done with that much money. Penthouses for pigeons with automatic pooper scoopers. Can the grant only be used at that location or can it be used at any of the transit locations in Oak Park?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 10:16 PM

mmds from Oak Park, the 1.1 million dollars is not to fix anything of the CTA's. Read the story. The money has been giving to Pope and Raymond to spend it on what they want, and if they think adding 1.1 million dollars worth of gold in between bricks, they can do it. Is your Federal money being spent wisely? You will know if you benefited or not after Pope and Raymond decide what they personally want. You aren't involved in that choice.

mmds from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 9:22 PM

I am happy to read this news about upgrading this facility and surrounding area. That said (and I agree that this is somewhat a separate issue), I hope that the CTA will soon upgrade the other Oak Park stations to be handicapped accessible. Or at the very least have working escalators.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 8:34 PM

What is Pope and Raymond going to buy? Last time in that area it was 5 million dollars worth of brick streets.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 6:55 PM

Johnny, I agree! Let the conspiracy theories/theorists begin! Now I will check out and offer no further comment nor view these comments again - really don't like all the negativity - bad for the soul!

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 6:51 PM

Awesome! Thanks to the great grant writer!!

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 5:54 PM

Great news!, what is Pope and Raymond going to do with the 1.1 million dollars. You are acting like a kid who gets a big smile when a birthday cake is approaching only to find out it's not for you. All you are saying is it's great news. What will it be used for?

Great news! from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 5:44 PM

If nothing else, this demonstrates that some can never be happy (or they're blinded by their own political agenda). That's really kind of sad. It also demonstrates how incredibly out of step some are with the vast majority of Oak Parkers who will rightfully find this to be excellent news. This isn't even about Pope. I certainly don't always agree with him. It's just great news for Oak Park.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 5:33 PM

Johnny Sevier and Great news!, enjoy your enthusiasm with Pope and Raymond getting more free money to spend when our government should be restricting hand outs to real need cases, but tell me what both of you really think Pope and Raymond are going to do with that 1.1 million dollars? It doesn't mention any specifics in the story. It's all generalized.

Great news! from Oak Park  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 5:18 PM

This is great news for Oak Park. Even the most stringent partisans will have trouble finding fault with this. For once we can all be happy.

Johnny Sevier  

Posted: August 3rd, 2012 4:56 PM

Let the miserable, dogmatic naysaying begin!

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