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posted: 5/21/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Build the pedestrian bridge — quickly

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

The bike trail that winds through Busse Woods in Cook County is a beautiful suburban oasis. It wanders between meadows in full sun and the lush shade of the deep woods. It skirts the elk pens and the lakes and creeks, taking outdoor enthusiasts far from the hustle and bustle.

There's only one problem for them, and that is where the trail crosses Higgins Road just east of I-290. An estimated 55,000 cars pass through that intersection daily. It's not uncommon to see bikers, runners and people pushing strollers, hopscotching their way across the roadway from concrete island to concrete island.

And now that summer is nearly here, there will be more of them.

For several years, plans have been in the works for a pedestrian/bicycle bridge at that intersection, taking foot and bike traffic safely over Higgins Road -- much like the bridge over Higgins just west of Arlington Heights Road and the one spanning Route 53 near Biesterfield Road.

Even before the tragic death last week of Rosaleen Waters, the bridge was worth constructing as the final link in a tremendous suburban attraction. Now, it's imperative.

Waters, of Elk Grove Village, was hit by a car while she was crossing Higgins Road with her bike. The accident is still under investigation, but no matter who was at fault, if anyone, a bridge would have prevented the tragedy.

Busse Woods is in an unincorporated area, but Elk Grove Village has taken responsibility for making sure the trails are safe. The village led efforts to get the other two bridges built -- fabulous additions that keep the trail safe and pleasurable for riders and walkers.

Now more than $3 million in federal funding has been secured for the third bridge, and Elk Grove Village will pay about $670,000. We applaud the village's commitment.

Now, according to Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson, the tragedy has prompted the Illinois Department of Transportation to make the bridge a top priority. Work will now begin in early June instead of late July, and the hoped-for completion will be in spring of 2014.

As fast as that is, it's still a year away. It's crucial to keep cars out of the crosswalks. Cars exiting northbound Route 53 to turn east on Higgins are often seen sitting in the crosswalk, waiting for an opening in the traffic. Some don't come to a complete stop before turning right on red.

Why not at least repaint the crosswalks to make them more visible to drivers? A flashing yellow pedestrian crosswalk light would get drivers' attention as well.

Rosaleen Waters was an experienced cyclist, who, by her husband's account, always exercised caution. Sadly, her death has focused attention on a public safety need.

Now, it's everybody's job to keep the attention on it until the bridge is completed.

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