Someday enough federal and state money will trickle down to finally remake the clogged intersection of Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard. This is where the more-than-century-old Union Pacific embankment carrying CTA el cars to an outmoded terminus at Harlem, and Metra trains running east and west, mash up with an auto- and truck-heavy state Route 43 to create a tangle that slows vehicular traffic, is unfriendly to pedestrians and bikers, and abuts an increasingly dense commercial and residential high-rise community.
If ever there is going to be a trickle out of D.C. and/or via Springfield, it is likely soon as there are billions in infrastructure dollars sloshing around. And so, frankly, why not us? Between Davis and Durbin, Harmon and Welch we ought to have the political oomph to pry free necessary funds.
The three towns, which also mash up at that corner — Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest — also have strong enough working ties to make the case for this fix.
This comes to mind because there is currently a distraction to the shared cause. The CTA, which maintains a maintenance and storage yard at the end of the Green Line, also has a butt-ugly and no longer necessary rusting water tower in that facility. Anyone who has to stare at it, and that’s not that many people, would like it disappeared.
The CTA, which has a myriad of woes, including a ridership that is highly reluctant to return, semi-post-Covid, has offered to take down the tower but would like some local municipal cash to make that happen. Correctly, village presidents Cathy Adduci and Vicki Scaman have said, “Really? You’re kidding.” Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins seems more willing to push a deal as he works to extend an adjacent TIF.
The full focus here needs to be on the big remake of the intersection. It needs to be wider, the roadway needs to be lowered to stop trucks from shearing off roofs. A rusty water tower is not germane to the discussion.