U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-3rd)
Railroad crossing tie-ups to continue
No 65th Street overpass until 2025 or later, Newman aide says
By Dermot Connolly
Motorists looking for relief from railroad tie-ups in Clearing will have to wait until the end of 2025 at the earliest, a top aide to U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-3rd) told local business leaders last month.
“The [Illinois Department of Transportation] project team has finalized the 65th Street overpass project this summer,” Newman aide Shadin Maali said. “They are on target to move into Phase 2.”
Her remarks came at a United Business Association of Midway meeting held Sept. 15 at the Hyatt Place Hotel in Bedford Park. About 20 local businesses and non-profits were represented.
UBAM members had been told that Newman herself would attend and answer questions, but she cancelled several days earlier, saying she had just returned from a House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee meeting.
Maali said the work ahead for the planned overpass near 65th and Nottingham will see IDOT engineers approve design plans and right-of-way acquisitions by the end of this year. IDOT also will need to buy pieces of land adjacent to the intersection.
“It’s a long time coming,” said UBAM board member Pat O’Brien, of O’Brien Family Realty, 6359 S. Central.
“Is funding really there, for all the acquisitions that need to be done?” she asked, expressing concern that funding may be reallocated elsewhere.
“We have only been waiting 50 years for this,” said UBAM President and Executive Director Anita Cummings, with a wry smile
“As far as we know, everything has been funded,” Maali responded.
For decades, local business owners in Clearing and Garfield Ridge have complained about delays caused by slow-moving freight trains—saying they are more than a nuisance, that they cost local businesses time and money.
Thomas S. Baliga, president of the Archer Heights Civic Association, asked if any federal funds have been allocated yet for a planned underpass at Archer and Knox, another long-awaited grade improvement at a busy railroad crossing.
He also sought information on the state’s plan to widen Cicero Avenue by one lane in each direction under the Stevenson Expressway, just north of 43rd Street.
Baliga and the AHCA have been working on cleaning up that area of Cicero, between the expressway and 55th Street, which some call the “Gateway to Midway.”
Maali referred detailed questions about those projects to Newman’s district director, Ben Hardin—who was not at the UBAM meeting.
“We just need to get those projects going,” said Baliga afterward, pointing to dual benefits of the Cicero Avenue expansion—relieving traffic congestion and eliminating the space under the viaduct that has become an encampment for squatters.
A week after the meeting and in response to a question, Baliga told the Clear-Ridge Reporter & NewsHound he has not heard from Hardin or anyone else from Newman’s office about the questions he raised.
After several small business owners said they are continuing to have problems with mail delivery, Maali said Newman is having regular meetings with local aldermen and the U.S. Postal Service representatives to improve service.
Also at the meeting was Robert “Bo” Steiner, district director of the Small Business Administration. He urged business owners still feeling the economic effects of the pandemic to apply for federal funds through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program before the program expires on Dec. 31.
He pointed out that loans are available to non-profits as well and come with a 3.75% interest rate that can be paid back over 30 years. More information is available at sba.gov.
Steiner noted that the SBA administered 223,000 Payroll Protection Plan loans to Illinois businesses since the pandemic. That program ended in May, but business owners can still apply for loan forgiveness, which he encouraged them to do.
“We’re a small agency, and probably guarantee about $30 million in loans during a normal year. But in the past 16 to 18 months, we have delivered over a trillion dollars in funding so it has been pretty dynamic,” he said.
UBAM Executive Director Anita Cummings said she was pleased with the volume of information presented by Maali and Steiner.
“UBAM has been around since 1985,” she said. “We’ve expanded our footprint, and we’re looking for a partnership (with public officials). Our goal is to help the entire Midway Airport area. Everybody profits when the whole area is economically sound.”
Tim Hadac contributed to this story.
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