By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – A new school year is just around the corner, with Harlem School District 122 students returning to the classroom on Aug. 12.

With that comes the reality that some high school students walk home from classes each day. The village for a number of years has been working on a project that would see a multi-use pathway built along the west side of the busy road, from the entrance to the high school south to Roosevelt Road.

Thanks to an unexpected grant, the project was expanded to include the stretch from the high school north to Lowe’s and from Roosevelt south to Jupiter Road, near Schnucks.

It appeared earlier this year that the project would be done in time for the 2015-16 school year. But now it seems that students, for one more year, will have to continue using the shoulder between Alpine road and neighboring houses, to walk to and from Harlem.

Village Administrator Tim Savage said July 30 that plan review at the federal level likely won’t be finished in time for any work to be done this year.

“There are a lot of requirements,” he said. “There is a question as to whether we will get any construction done this year.”

In addition to providing safer access for Harlem students, the project will make a regional connection to the Illinois 173 corridor “and complete a high-priority, missing link in the path network,” Machesney Park Mayor Jerry Bolin said.

The current path, which leads into Rock Cut State Park, ends behind the high school. The Alpine Road walkway will tie into the state park path, creating access from the Rock River all the way to the park, via Roosevelt Road.

Service road to benefit

While it appears the pathway will be a 2016 project, improvement of the southern end of the Alpine Road service drive should be done.

Village officials originally pledged to use utility tax funds on that stretch of the service drive between Nelson and Roosevelt.

But then Machesney Park successfully landed a $620,000 transportation alternative program (TAP) grant. And an ensuing study determined the village could afford to rebuild the rest of the drive, from Nelson south to Juniper Drive, near Schnucks.

This meant the path would be built from Lowe’s all the way south to Juniper.

Planning staff recommended the service drive be constructed at 25 feet wide, instead of the usual 30 feet, with no-parking signs on one side of the road.

“Doing so should create a larger area in which to construct the path improvements and, ideally, we would be able to locate the path a bit further from Alpine Road, to provide separation of the Alpine Road traffic from the path,” Village Engineer Chris Dopkins said.

“Additionally, the project would realize a savings of approximately $15,000 without greatly affecting the road’s ability to function.”


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