In a moment when America is thankfully flush with infrastructure funding, it is good to see our local communities with their collective hands out to fund rebuilding of the nagging bottleneck that is the railroad bridge at Harlem Avenue and South Boulevard.
Built more than a century ago, this viaduct is well past a simple definition of obsolescence. It carries both freight and commuter traffic up top and jams up auto, truck, pedestrian and bicycle traffic down below. It is too narrow. It is too low.
Our three villages of Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest have been cooperatively banging their heads on its concrete wall for well more than a decade with nothing to show. Now in this moment of infrastructure plenty, the tri-villages are trying a new tactic and are jointly hiring a transit consultant with some specialization in shaking money loose from government entities. The cost is low — just $15,000 split among the villages — and the payoff could be substantial. The ask of the new Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) will be $25 million against an estimated rebuilding cost of $34.6 million.
The other ace in our collective pocket would be our local connections to Springfield power by the names of Speaker Chris Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford. Two Democratic U.S. senators and a Democratic president also won’t hurt.
Outside of the inevitable rebuilding of the Ike, these communities do not have a more immediate transit challenge than this viaduct. Good for the three villages for keeping at this.