Elk Grove family gets closure from opening of bike bridge
The death of bicyclist Rosaleen Waters has been tough on the family members she left behind.
The 46-year-old Elk Grove Village resident was struck and killed by a vehicle in May as she crossed busy Higgins Road near the Elk Grove-Schaumburg border.
Now six months later, her family members say they have some closure, with the opening of a new $2.7 million pedestrian overpass that connects the northern and southern portions of the Busse Woods trail.
"For me, it's a happy day," her husband, Tony Waters, said Friday after a ribbon-cutting atop the bridge with local officials and cycling enthusiasts. "The bridge will be here for another 50, 75, 80 years, long after we're gone. Generations after us will be able to have a safe crossing here."
With more than 2.5 million visitors per year, the 11.2-mile-long Busse Woods trail is one of the Cook County Forest Preserve's most heavily trafficked bike paths.
It's where Rosaleen was riding her bike the morning of May 14, wearing a helmet and dressed in a bright, orange vest. Traveling south on the trail, she crossed three lanes of Higgins near the exit ramp of Route 53/Interstate 290 and stopped at the center median. But as she continued, she was struck by a car driven by an 85-year-old man.
"It was an accident," her husband said. "It pointed out why we needed a bridge."
In fact, he talked to another cyclist not long after his wife's death who said she almost got struck by a car as she crossed Higgins.
"I said, 'My goodness, gracious lady, that's where my wife just got killed a couple weeks ago.' She turned white as a ghost," Waters said. "There's many, many close calls at that intersection. The safety will be improved tremendously with the opening of this bridge."
The pedestrian overpass was in the works for five years, but it wasn't until federal funding came through that the project was able to proceed, said Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson.
The mayor said after Rosaleen's death in May that he heard Illinois Department of Transportation officials wanted to make the bridge project a top priority.
It was just days after her death that the Elk Grove Village board awarded a construction contract for the bridge project, paid for with $2,145,000 in federal funds and $520,000 from the village. Construction began in July and finished this month, ahead of the original March 2014 goal.
"(The accident) showed the danger we had, and that's why it was so critical to get this job done," Johnson said Friday.
Added Cook County Commissioner Tim Schneider at the ribbon-cutting: "Have you ever heard of in time and under budget? We've heard an awful lot about a bridge to nowhere. This is a bridge to somewhere."
The installation of the 280-foot-long, 12-foot-wide bridge eliminates the last remaining roadway crossing along the Busse Woods trail. The first trail overpass over Higgins was installed west of Arlington Heights Road in 1995, and the second one was installed over Route 53/Interstate 290 in 2001.
The elimination of roadway crossings to the Busse Woods trail is welcome news to David Simmons, president of the Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove, a local cycling advocacy group that started two years ago.
Simmons said he's planning a local "Ride of Silence" on the trail to honor Rosaleen. The silent, slow-paced rides have been held for the past 10 years all over the world in remembrance of those who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. The next Ride of Silence takes place across North America 7 p.m. May 21, 2014.
Sheila Rudden-Shorey, Rosaleen's sister, said she appreciated the bridge's opening and knows it will be used by the community.
She was thinking of her sister on Friday as she stood upon the bridge for the ribbon-cutting.
"I think it'd be nice for her to know this bridge is opening," she said. "It's a beautiful thing."