Driving away traffic

THE LANDMARK VIEW

Opinion

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Driving away traffic
It's been a long time coming, but the federal transportation bill, passed last year by the U.S. House and, finally, last week by the U.S. Senate may bring some much-needed relief to anyone who has had the misfortune of approaching 31st Street on First Avenue during a warm summer weekend day.

Tourists and local residents alike are often caught in traffic jams that can extend for many blocks as people slowly make their way into the north parking lot at Brookfield Zoo. One of the principal reasons for the traffic jams is the way the entry into the north lot is configured?"off a spur road with no quick access to the lot. In order to turn from the southbound lanes into the lot, cars must come to a virtual stop in the traffic lane to negotiate the turn. The turn-in from the northbound traffic lane is no easier.

But thanks to a potential $3.2 million grant from the federal government, Brookfield Zoo may be able to begin working on a plan to alleviate the traffic congestion it sees on busy days. While that amount is just a fraction of the $14 million the zoo originally requested from legislators, it's our hope that they can begin to get the cars off of main roads and into the north lot as quickly as possible.

And while it's great that the Village of North Riverside was able to get nearly $2 million in the same bill to create a bike path and additional municipal parking in the village, we wonder whether that money might have been better served going toward the Brookfield Zoo project.

Clearing up zoo traffic will benefit North Riverside as well, and while a bike path connecting the Forest Preserves with Veteran's Park is a fine idea, it seems like more of luxury when there's a real transportation issue that needs to be solved at the zoo.

We're also glad to see that a streetcar line that had been part of an earlier version of the transportation bill, which proposed connecting Navy Pier and the North Riverside Mall, has been axed altogether. That bit of pork came with an exorbitant price tag and, in our estimation, was driven more by nostalgia than necessity.

Saving a landmark
The Riverside Preservation Commission is in an unenviable position. The 91-year-old widow who owns a portion of Frank Lloyd Wright's Coonley House urgently needs to repair her leaking roof, but can't afford the proper historical restoration.

The Coonley House is arguably the most significant work of architecture in the village and deserves to be restored in the way a National Historic Landmark should be. At the same time, no one should force such an onerous expense on someone who cannot afford it.

The best remedy, on the surface, may not sound ideal. In order to allow the home's owner to continue living in the house and to halt further deterioration of the structure, the village should allow some type of temporary repair to the roof?"short of a complete tear-off and asphalt reshingling?"if that's at all possible.

The village should also look into whether there is some way to assure that a future owner of the property would be required to address the roof in a way that's consistent with a nationally landmarked building. Repairing the Coonley Coach House won't be cheap if it's done right. In the meantime, Riverside can't afford to let an important landmark disintegrate by simply disallowing a cheaper, temporary solution.

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