This week, it's another column about problems at Metra. Kidding!
Instead, we're focusing on your questions about a "Kafkaesque" dispute with the Illinois tollway, messed-up roads and interminable construction projects.
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New transit fare system kicks in todayIt's Ventra Day! Pace and the CTA's new fare system kicks into gear. The change means a universal fare that lets you move between the two systems without separate passes or tickets. You can buy Ventra cards online or by phone at (877) 669-8368 (NOW VENTRA) or at retail shops. To learn more go to www.ventrachicago.com.
Lori Luxenberg Challinor of Roselle and her husband are reeling from an unexpected bill from the tollway for violations of about $10,000 on their Dodge Caravan. Problem is, the couple no longer own the Caravan -- they sold it several years ago to an acquaintance who turned around and resold it to some unsavory characters. They, in turn, took the van on the adventure of a lifetime that included running red lights and skipping tolls. Compounding matters is the fact the couple didn't obtain a title transfer document although they have the bill of sale.
"The police visited us and accepted the bill of sale as proof that we did not own the vehicle at the time it embarked on a life of crime," she wrote. "However, all of our attempts to deal with the Illinois toll authority, and they have been ongoing and numerous, have been futile. They will not accept any proof of the sale, saying that only the title mattered. My husband has taken numerous days off work in attempts to deal with this in person to no avail. We accept that we erred in the transfer of the title but do not feel our entire life should be ruined due to a bureaucratic mistake on the sale of a $500 vehicle."
I contacted the Illinois tollway, which looked into the dispute, contacted the couple and apologized for a disconnect in previous communications.
Next, officials advised them to appeal through a new affidavit of non-liability feature online.
This program lets drivers with excuses such as "my car was stolen" protest undeserved toll violations.
I checked in with the Challinors last week, who said they'd forwarded their documents to the tollway and are awaiting resolution. So, stay tuned for the next installment of "The Van that Went Rogue."
When will Route 53 work end?
Rick Durgin of Roselle is fed up. "Could you let us know when in the world the construction on Route 53 (Rohlwing Road) between Army Trail in Addison and the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway in Itasca is supposed to be completed?" he asked. "If I remember correctly this is now the third year it's been torn up. How much longer is this project going to be milked?"
The original completion date was 2012, IDOT's Jae Miller replied. But "due to utilities conflicts through the 2011-2012 construction season, the new anticipated construction date for the Route 53 project is end of 2013."
Stay strong, Rick.
Arlington Park angst
Rob Richards fears for his car driving on the "short road leading to the Arlington Park Metra station, which is in complete disrepair. The road connects the station going west to Rohlwing Road following the UP Northwest line. Hundreds of cars drive to and from the station every day. Why is it not maintained better?" Richards asked.
Arlington Heights Sgt. Shawn Gyorke had the answer. "The repair of the roadway is scheduled for open bidding in September of this year," he wrote. "Hopefully, the resurfacing project will begin late this fall and be completed sometime in the spring of 2014."
Gary Ave. work coming in 2014
"I thought I heard they were going to be resurfacing Gary Avenue in Carol Stream yet I have seen no action. What gives?" asks Monica Blum.
Help is on the way, DuPage County Principal Civil Engineer Alan Hasler said. Engineers are working on plans to widen Gary and modernize its signals. Construction should start in spring of 2014 with completion anticipated in the fall.
Eisenhower gridlock alert
Give yourself extra time on the Eisenhower Expressway in off-peak hours starting today. A bridge rebuild on Morgan Street near downtown will mean lane closures on the Ike and the shutdown of Morgan Street from Van Buren to Harrison streets. The project will last through April.
Walk Milwaukee Avenue
If you've ever itched to stroll or bike along the middle of historic Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago without encountering a car, your dream is coming true.
The Active Transportation Alliance will sponsor an Open Streets Sunday event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 15 in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood. Hang out with the hipsters and experience street yoga, a fitness boot camp, boutique beer, hula-hooping and an imagination playground.
Union Station makeover
Richard Piagari of Des Plaines shared some memories in response to an earlier column about revitalizing Union Station.
"I was 5 years old when the United States entered World War II and experienced two teenage brothers and five uncles go off to serve in the military," he wrote. "When they would come home on furlough, my parents and I would meet them at Union Station. Entering the doors on Canal Street, seeing the Great Hall filled with hundreds of traditional railroad station waiting room benches and thousands of people in military uniforms, was a sight to behold and to always remember for a 5-year-old boy.
"My suggestion for refurbishing the Great Hall is to employ a 1940s theme. The war years created great movies, riveting headlines, unforgettable history, heroism, clothing and hair styles, manufacturing and industries and a strong, strong people. Perhaps (this) could be used as a basis for a new Great Hall."
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