New Underpass is Now Open
By Southwest News-Herald
Longtime Bridgeview resident Ann Klawiter was pleased to learn that 71st Street between Harlem Avenue and Roberts Road would now allow her to get back and forth without waiting for a slow moving freight train to cross.
Klawiter was just one of many local residents expressing their appreciation to Bridgeview Mayor Steven Landek at Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
Gov. Pat Quinn, Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd), Ilinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schenider and other local officials joined Landek and the residents of Bridgeview in marking the completion of the two-year project.
A press release from the mayor’s office stated that about 80 trains passing this crossing on a daily basis had always resulted in major traffic delays, especially following major events at nearby Toyota Park, 7000 S. Harlem Ave., Bridgeview.
The new underpass also increases the safety of those in Bridgeview, as emergency response teams will have another east-west corridor to allow them to reach both sides of town quickly.
The project was identified as a prime candidate for federal stimulus funds through CREATE, which stands for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program, which sponsors projects to move busy intersections away or around busy rail lines.
As a result of the $20 million grant, 71st Street will now go under the CSX and Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad tracks rather than going across it.
The Saturday morning ceremony, which was open to the public and included refreshments and entertainment, was also an opportunity for many to meet local officials.
The ceremony kicked off with the local Boy Scouts, Troop 13, leading the crowd in the “Pledge of Allegiance”, followed with a prayer by Pastor Bill Clark.
Safaa Zarzour, the administrative coordinator of Bridgeview, then introduced Steve Landek, who began his speech by referencing long-time resident of Bridgeview, Bud Stanton.
“He came up to me today and said he was 14 in 1952 when they opened the bridge on 79th Street…This has been a long time coming,” Landek said.
Lipinski helped secure funds for the project, which was part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program, or CREATE.
“Since I secured federal funding for this project and helped to break ground more than two years ago, I have been asked many, many times when 71st Street will be finished. I am proud to say it is here and it’s a beautiful sight to see,” Lipinski said. “This project, by separating the road from the rails, means less time stuck in traffic, improved safety, healthier air, and increased efficiency in moving goods.
“The 71st Street underpass is exactly what CREATE is all about — creating jobs, improving transportation and making sure all of Northeastern Illinois stays a great place to live and work.”
“We are very excited to be finishing up this critical infrastructure improvement for the Village of Bridgeview and surrounding communities,” Landek said. “Our residents, who have been very patient during this entire process, have something to be real proud of.
“We’re looking forward to the positive impact it will begin making very soon.”
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