Community members outraged at Governor’s move

Outraged nemers

Suresh Bodiwala

CHICAGO: A large number of enlightened community members are outraged that Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and Hillside Mayor Joe Tamburino, want to spend about $15 million State taxes to make the Illinois Prairie Path more dangerous for bicyclists and pedestrians than it presently is, in Hillside a Chicago suburb.  Instead, voters want far safer and less expensive solutions to fix the Path, possibly saving Illinois taxpayers millions. 

These members alsowant Pritzker to build a Prairie Path Bridge over Mannheim Rd. at Warren Ave. between Hillside and Bellwood for maximum safety.  Other villages have built bridges like this over busy roads for pathways.  To pay for the bridge, voters want Pritzker to shut down a controversial State project in Hillside that was never built and reassign its $2 million state grant.

The Illinois Prairie Path was created in 1963 as the first rails-to-trails conversion in North America.  A recreational path for walking and bicycling, the Path extends 60 miles from Maywood (east) to Geneva (west.), where the Path crosses Mannheim Rd. at either the Mannheim Rd./Washington St. or, Mannheim Rd./Madison St. intersections, users face dangerous, fast-moving trucks and vehicles turning from all directions.

The Hillside Neighbors plan solves the Mannheim danger by putting traffic signals at the T-intersection of Mannheim Rd./Warren Ave. and allow Path users to cross Mannheim without dangerous left turns or right turns coming at them.  Their plan also shortens the Path by keeping it on Warren Ave. in Hillside, which is a mostly residential street.  

By contrast, Pritzker and Tamburino want to rip the Path off Warren, construct almost a mile of costly new pathways, purchase and demolish private buildings, force Path users across dangerous Mannheim Rd. intersections, force users across 13-dangerous business driveways, and make the Path longer than it is today.  For everyone taking the Path – – especially seniors, children and people with disabilities – – these changes would make the Path far more dangerous than it is today.

Plus, Pritzker and Tamburino are allegedly violating the Illinois Transportation Department’s requirement to hold a public hearing before IDOT issues a grant for their proposed project.  In May 2021, Pritzker pledged a $17 million grant for Path improvements and for other work on Butterfield Rd. in Hillside.  After this grant was allocated, Pritzker and Tamburino changed their Prairie Path plan without holding any public meeting.  When voters contacted IDOT and demanded a public meeting, IDOT said no.

Hillside Neighbors also wants a Prairie Path bridge over Mannheim Rd.  They’re asking Pritzker to reassign a $2 million state grant away from one of the most dangerous proposals in Illinois history: Building a 1,000-foot-long recreational bridge over 9 lanes of Eisenhower Expressway traffic in Hillside, with the bridge running along Mannheim Rd.; Tamburino told the Chicago Tribune that the bridge would be built in 2019, but nothing has happened.  It is imperative now to terminate this project and reassign the $2 million grant to a Prairie Path bridge over Mannheim Rd.

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