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Noise Walls Going Up Along The Kennedy Near Harlem, Home To Planes, Trains And Automobiles (These Won’t Help With The Planes)

What are those steel beams going up on the way to O'Hare? Suburban-style noise walls, IDOT says.

Steel beams have been sunk along the Kennedy Expy. near Harlem to support a concrete noise abatement wall.
Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
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NORWOOD PARK — Northwest Side residents who live along the Kennedy Expy. near O’Hare Airport will get some relief from the rumbling of cars and trains passing through the neighborhood thanks to a multimillion dollar noise abatement wall project now underway.

The ongoing construction work between Cumberland and Harlem on the Kennedy is all about the quieting the noise for expressway neighbors.

The 20-foot-high concrete walls now being built are sure to change the feel of the area on both sides of the walls.

Leaders at a local church, for example, voted against the wall, worried that Kennedy Expy. travelers wouldn’t be able to see the grandeur of its architecture. There are also concerns about newly-created dark streets and the possibility of graffiti.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago

But some neighbors are looking forward to less noise.

John Haleas, who has lived on the 5700 block of North Orange Avenue since 2003, said he welcomed the wall.

“They should have built it a long time ago,” Haleas said, adding that the biggest noise nuisance is from the CTA’s Blue Line “L”, which runs in the middle of the Kennedy.

“You can’t sleep at night,” he said.

Although the homes and the highway have been there for decades, what prompted the building of the walls is the recent addition of a flyover lane at the westbound Cumberland exit and an additional lane between Cumberland and Harlem Avenues, according to Illinois Dept. of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell.

The decision to build the walls was put to a vote and the majority of nearby residents voted in favor of it, Tridgell said. If all goes well, the project should be wrapped by the end of the year.

The walls, which will stand on both sides of the highway, will be made of concrete and steel beams and extend from Cumberland to Harlem on the north side of the highway and from Canfield to Harlem Avenues on the south side, Tridgell said.

The noise retention walls cost $25 per square foot, or $1.5 million per mile, IDOT said. The distance between Cumberland and Harlem Avenues is approximately 1.8 miles and the distance between Canfield to Harlem is just less than a a mile, so the total cost can be estimated at more than $4 million. 

Thus far, large steel beams have been installed between Sayre and Oriole Avenues on the south side of the highway and again along Serbian Road next to the highway west of Canfield Avenue.

Beams haven’t yet been sunk on north side of the highway, which includes parts of Park Ridge, according to Tridgell. 

Although Tridgell said the wall on the south side of the highway is expected to cover the area between Canfield and Harlem Avenues, the beams stop at Redwood Drive, site of Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church.

Church vice president Goran Davidovac said the church and surrounding residents voted against the wall because it would block the church from being seen from the highway and because “we didn’t want to feel like animals in a cage.”

Davidovac said he worries that the wall, which will run along Serbian Road not far from his church, will attract trouble.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church

“It’s very dark on Serbian Road and now the light from the expressway will be blocked out so it’s going to be pitch black. Graffiti is going to be there and there will be meetings of non-desirable people there, I promise you,” Davidovac said.

Chris Vittorio, chief of staff for Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st), said if it’s determined that if street lights are needed, their office would address it with IDOT.

He added that since it’s an IDOT project, the state would be responsible for addressing and paying for anything impacted by the project, even if it’s on a city street.

As for the possibility of attracting graffiti artists, Vittorio said “if that happens, Chicago Streets and San crews would take care of it quickly. Grafitti is not a big problem on the Northwest Side.”

Colleen Schultz, of the 7400 block of West Gregory Street, welcomed the wall. It won’t help the biggest culprit, though, noting her area suffers from airline noise from planes going to and from O’Hare Airport.

“We get trains, planes and cars. The planes are the loudest.”

Schultz, who has lived at her home for 20 years, got new doors and windows from the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission to battle the airplane noise in 2008.

“It helped, but who wants to stay inside with your doors and windows shut on a beautiful day?”

Another resident, Julie Parisi of the 5500 block of North Sayre Avenue, said she was disappointed the wall would end at Harlem and not extend further east.

“At what point do they decide to stop?” she wondered.

Still, Parisi has lived there for 26 years and was well aware of the noise when she moved in.

“It is what it is,” Parisi said.

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