The update was delivered to an audience of 19 at a meeting of the Garfield Ridge Civic League. It was in the form of a letter from the Illinois Department of Transportation to State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-11th), who now represents Garfield Ridge and Clearing after the recent remap, and shared by Joe Garcia, Sandoval's chief of staff.
Sandoval himself was not there, Garcia explained, because he is at a legislative conference in Mexico.
The letter from IDOT was a little over a month old and was in response to a letter that Sandoval had sent on December 12, requesting a briefing on progress with installing grade separations (such as underpasses) at various railroad crossings---specifically:
** 65th Street, just east of Harlem
** 55th Street, just west of Central
** Central Avenue, just north of 54th Street
** 55th Street, just east of Central Park.
IDOT's response only mentioned two of the four crossings. They made no mention of what, if any, progress has been made on 55th Street just west of Central, and 55th Street just east of Central Park.
Regarding the railroad crossing at Central Avenue just north of 54th Street, IDOT said that the project is in the first phase of design; and that phase will not be completed before 2015. IDOT offered no word on how many phases are in the entire process or how many years it would take for an underpass to actually be built or with what specific funds.
The IDOT update offered a similar "2015 or later" outlook for the rail crossing at Archer and Kenton, a crossing not mentioned by Sandoval.
|Garcia confers with Chuck Shilney.|
Garcia did not explain why Sandoval did not request an IDOT briefing on other local rail crossings that cause traffic tie-ups, such as 63rd and Harlem, 59th and Narragansett, and 59th and Austin.
The IDOT letter also noted that an underpass is under construction on 71st Street (several blocks west of Harlem, by Toyota Park in suburban Bridgeview)---a sore point for many Garfield Ridge and Clearing residents who have bitterly complained (correctly or not) that the same politicians who have long promised relief to Garfield Ridge and Clearing have instead used their muscle to get that underpass done first.
In response to a question, Garcia said he was not immediately aware of what progress, if any, has been made on the proposed Central Avenue Overpass, which would link Clearing with Bedford Park and Burbank---a project that has been the subject of on-again/off-again political promises going all the way back to 1946.
Clearing resident Chuck Shilney, a longtime neighborhood advocate and critic of railroad companies, voiced skepticism that the overpass would be built during Sandoval's current term of office.
|Garcia and Rick Techman|
In other matters discussed at the meeting:
** In response to a question about plans to cut pension benefits of government workers, Garcia said that Sandoval opposes cutting the pension benefits of retired government workers. "The deal you start with is the deal you get," he said. He did not comment on proposals to reduce benefits for current government workers.
** In response to an audience member's claim that returning servicemen are not receiving the health care and job opportunities they deserve, Garcia said "It is unfortunate that our servicemen aren't being taken care of."
** Garcia praised audience members for playing an active role in community improvement. He talked about his own commitment by noting that he and his family moved back to the neighborhood where he spent his earliest years (Little Village), saying "It is what it is today" and "I live in the worst part of the district" but play an active role in rebuilding the community.
** In response to an audience member who complained about what she sees as the state's failure to identify and crack down on Link card abuse, Garcia agreed that the issue is one of concern and pointed out that when he left his private-sector position as a Hyatt Hotel manager and accepted a job in government, he took a $35,000 pay cut. He added that unlike some others in government, he has no outside employment---and with a family to support, he claimed he would qualify for a Link card. "I could apply for one, and I would get it; but I refuse to get one," he stated.
** GRCL President Rick Techman thanked Garcia and expressed hope that Sandoval himself will speak before the group in the months ahead. Techman also reminded the group about the GRCL's "Spontaneous Sunday" event planned for February 24 at Danny's Pizza. Details can be found on the GRCL website.
** Longtime neighborhood advocate Mary Shilney encouraged everyone to attend the next CAPS Beat 812 meeting, set for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 13 at the Clearing Branch Library; and that the Clearing Night Force neighborhood watch group will host a "gang awareness" event on Tuesday, March 19 at Hale School. Details will be made public as they are set.
** It was noted that the next meeting of the Clearing Civic League is set for 7:00 p.m. Tuesday, February 19 at Hale Park. (The meeting was moved to the third Tuesday because the second Tuesday is a holiday and the room was not available.)
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