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Noise Walls Blocking Bridgeport From Stevenson Proposed, But Neighbors Wary

By Ed Komenda | May 25, 2016 5:45am

BRIDGEPORT — The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to build 10-foot noise walls along the Stevenson Expy., but residents are concerned the project will ruin Bridgeport’s scenic views and make the neighborhood feel like a cave.

“All I can see this wall doing is taking away our beautiful view of the skyline and the beautiful views from the expressway of our cathedrals,” said 61-year-old John Orozco, who owns an eight-flat complex along Archer Avenue with balcony views of the Chicago skyline. “You’re taking that all away by putting up a big wall.”

Orozco was one of about three dozen Bridgeport residents who showed up at St. Barbara Parish’s school hall to hear IDOT spokesmen describe parts of the state’s I-55 Managed Lane Project, which could include an added lane that stretches 25 miles along the Stevenson and 11 noise walls. The proposal calls for walls near South Halsted Street and South Quinn Street.

Ed Komenda on the residents' view of a noise wall.

Ald. Patrick D. Thompson (11th) hosted the community forum to provide the public with more information about the project and hear the neighborhood’s opinion.

“This is very preliminary,” Thompson said before IDOT took the floor.

In a jargon-laced presentation describing the process that helped the transportation authority determine there's a need for an added lane and noise walls, IDOT project manager Steven Schilke revealed the state would like to complete the project in three years at a cost of $400 million.

Longtime Bridgeport residents who spoke at the meeting made one thing clear: This neighborhood does not want noise walls.

“I love this community, but I don’t want a big wall,” said Ron Szczesniak, who owns Windy City Silkscreening with his wife at 2715 S. Archer Ave., where, from the roof, one of the best views of the city skyline can be seen.

Marybeth Szczesniak, the company’s president, said she’s been in business since 1986, and noise has never been an issue.

The only problem she has to deal with, she said, is graffiti — and if there’s one thing graffiti artists want, it’s a big wall: “They’re going to love that wall."

Tom Groark, a 48-year-old employee at St. Barbara, said a noise wall would take away one of Bridgeport’s best offerings.

“The wall is going to block my view of the Sox Park fireworks,” he said.

Residents sound off Tuesday night at a noise wall forum at St. Barbara parish. (DNAinfo/Ed Komenda)

A woman who wished to remain anonymous said the noise wall will make the neighborhood feel more like a prison than a community.

“I don’t want to live in a prison,” she said.

Before IDOT can move forward with the project, neighborhood residents, landlords and business owners must vote in favor of it.

According to Federal Highway Administration regulations, property owners can vote for or against noise walls in their neighborhoods. To be eligible to vote, you must live within 300 feet of the noise wall.

If more than 50 percent of responding residents vote in favor of a noise wall, it will likely be included in the project, according to IDOT.

Earlier this month, IDOT sent out a survey to neighborhood folks identified as "benefited receptors" along the I-55 Managed Lane Project corridor. The package included details about the voting process behind the proposed noise wall, a vote form and a stamped envelope. Residents have until June 2 to vote.

Thompson made a point to remind the room that “the city has no involvement” in the state project.

“Your reaction is my reaction, which is why we’re here,” Thompson said. “The time to act is now, so we have to get out there.”

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