10-26-2016-12-01-02-PM-9069573

No Archer/Knox underpass for now, Lipinski says

Less than 60 seconds after U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) spoke with

pride about his role in passing a federal transportation bill thatover

the next five years will provide “$250 million more than what had been coming

in the past.,” he stunned an Archer Heights Civic Association audience by

adding that a long-awaited railroad underpass at Archer and Knox has not been

funded.

The news, delivered on Oct. 12, was met with groans by several people in the

crowd of about 50 people in the cafeteria of the UNO school at 47thand Kildare.

“One thing

that was in this transportation billÑthat I worked to get in thereÑwas a pot of

money to get bigger projects doneÉwith the hope, among other things, of getting

some grade separations done,” Lipinski said. “I worked with the Illinois

Department of Transportation and the Chicago Department of Transportation to

get an Archer and Knox grade separation put into a request. I had great hopes

this would be funded.

“I’ll be

completely honest with you because that’s the way I believe in doing things,”

the congressman continued. “I had heard that there would be money coming in to

get that done. The day before the [federal DOT] announcement was going to be

made on what projects would be funded, I had actually written up something to

announce that this money was comingÉand to all of our disappointment, no money

at all was given for grade separation.”

Lipinski

said he “went and asked the U.S. Department of Transportation what their

criteria were, how this project was judged. They said it was judged very well.

Honestly, I believe it came down to a political decision not to fund this.

Money was sent elsewhere.”

The

congressman did not publicly speculate on exactly who was behind the “political

decision” he spoke of or where funds were sent.

Lipinski

said that the Archer/Knox proposal was one of three grade separation proposals

in the IDOT funding application. He said the other two, located on the South

Side and not in his district, also were not funded.

“I was

really hoping that I could come here and make a great announcement that this

was going to get done,” Lipinski told AHCA members.

He added

that there “is still hope that the money will be coming from the federal

government,” although he did not elaborate. He said he hopes that IDOT will

reapply for federal funding, since the Archer/Knox idea was well received on

its merits.

Earlier this

year, federal, state and local officials announced the awarding of a $1.25

grant to underwrite a design study for a planned grade separation near 95thand Eggleston on the South Side.

The

Archer/Knox proposal is not the only underpass idea to grind to a halt in the

area. The IDOT plan to explore building an underpass under the Belt Railway

tracks at 54thand Central appears to be derailed. The project website, centralbrc.org,

has sat idle for more than two years.

Traffic tie-ups will continue at the grade crossing at Archer and Knox, a fact

not lost on motorists outside a Midas auto repair shop just west of the tracks

last Saturday.

“This funding should be a slam dunk, right?” asked West Elsdon resident Jaime

Flores. “You have a Democratic administration in Washington looking at a thing

proposed by a Democratic congressman in a Democratic city. I don’t see how politics

can get in the way of that. This makes me angry.”

Archer Heights resident Bob Kwiatkowski was not angry but resigned. “I’ve lived

in this area most of my life,” he said. “I’m 52 years old, but I don’t see

myself living long enough to ever drive through one of these underpasses. The

last time one was built on the Southwest Side was whatÑin the 1950s when the

one at 54thand Cicero was constructed? Won’t happen, I’d say.”

(Editor’s Note: More news coverage and

photos in the print edition of the Southwest News-Herald, available on local

newsstands. Or better yet, call 708-496-0265 during weekday business hours and

order convenient home delivery for about 50 cents a week.)

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