Madison Street bridge gets makeover

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HAYDN BUSH and LISA BROWN

 Forest Park and River Forest are going in on a joint effort to aesthetically improve the Madison Street bridge over the Des Plaines River, while the Illinois Department of Transportation begins two to three months of work reconstructing the bridge.
The new design for the currently unsightly stretch of Madison Street includes six ornamental lights, three for each side of the street, which will cost $46,000 and will be split by Forest Park and River Forest. Forest Park Director of Streets and Public Improvements Bob Kutek said village officials came up with the idea, and broached it to officials in River Forest, who signed on. Ornamental guard rails are also planned for both sides of Madison Street.
"The state of Illinois will rebuild the bridge, which is in deplorable condition, and the village wanted to do some aesthetic work," Kutek said.
Work on the bridge is expected to start within 30 days, as IDOT embarks on a major reconstruction of the bridge and resurfaces an adjacent area of the state highway. Kutek said IDOT will begin the project by closing off one lane of traffic and will ultimately shut the entire street down from Thatcher Avenue on the east to First Avenue in Maywood on the west. The project should be completed by next winter, Kutek said.
The state, which is responsible for the actual road, delegates maintenance of the bridge area to Forest Park and River Forest, who will contribute to the cost of the overall project.
Village Administrator Matt O'Shea said the bridge reconstruction offers an opportunity to clean up the appearance of a busy thoroughfare.
"It's a gateway to the community," O'Shea said.
Kutek agreed, saying the once "deplorable" appearance of the bridge, which is surrounded by the Jefferson Woods Forest Preserve, will dramatically improve
"It will be an aesthetic, up to date looking bridge," Kutek said.
River Forest Village President Frank Paris credits Calderone with suggesting the idea of revamping the bridge. "I'm always glad to work with neighbors," Paris said about the cooperative project.
Paris said he looks forward to working with Forest Park in the future to develop other projects to work on together, but nothing specific is on the horizon.
The new bridge will be an attractive feature for both towns, said Paris, and will keep flood levels down because of its increased height. In addition, the new bridge will be several feet higher, so when other bridges are out because of high water, it will accessible.
Paris said several government heads of nearby communities, including Elmwood Park and Oak Park, meet nearly every month to talk about ideas, new legislation and joint projects, "so we can have more of a united front," he said.
One project each of the community leaders have discussed is replacing the viaduct at Harlem Avenue and the rail lines, Paris said.

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