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Officials hope new train station gets Oak Forest rolling

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Updated: January 23, 2014 6:39AM



Perhaps Hank Kuspa should have taken the train.

The mayor of Oak Forest was a few minutes late Friday afternoon for one of the city’s biggest events of the year, the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Metra train station at the northwest corner of 159th Street and Cicero Avenue.

As a result, former state Sen. Maggie Crotty, a 43-year resident of Oak Forest, cut the yellow ribbon with a pair of oversized green plastic scissors as the 2:21 from Chicago rolled in — albeit a few minutes late, just like the mayor.

But in the end, nobody seemed to mind much.

They were busy marveling at Oak Forest’s new jewel, a stunning train station that replaced one that had seen better days and was far from inviting.

The new station has light green walls, subtle lighting, eight oak benches and a clock inside. There’s a large clock outside designed to help commuters avoid being late for their trains.

Crotty, who brought 6-year-old grandson (and train fan) Peyton to the ceremony, smiled as she glanced around the 1,400-square-foot station paid for with $1.3 million in federal funding, $1 million from Oak Forest, and $1 million from the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.

“This is a long time coming. I remember getting wet inside as the ceiling was leaking. I’m glad I was able to help (secure funding),” Crotty said.

Don Orseno, Metra’s interim executive director, praised the new station at the site that is second only to Tinley Park’s 80th Avenue Station in terms of ridership among stops on the Rock Island District line.

“This is quite an accomplishment. Everybody worked very hard,” Orseno said.

The station has a warming shelter, bike parking and lockers, rest rooms, and seating indoors and out. There’s even a rack of paperback books on loan from the Acorn Library’s Read, Ride & Return Program for commuters waiting for a train.

“Merry Christmas to all the commuters,” Kuspa said.

Some residents were growing impatient over the station opening, which they hoped would occur by Thanksgiving, Kuspa said. Ground was broken in October 2012 and it took nearly 14 months for completion, but all are pleased it finally is here, Kuspa said.

“It’s a nice centerpiece for our Gateway area,” Kuspa said. “There are some developers very interested in this (site).”

He envisions the station as a magnet for the city’s project, designed to bring retail and residential building to the mostly vacant corner.

The lone business is a CVS Pharmacy. A former bank building sits vacant near 159th Street, and there’s plenty of room for more development, Kuspa said.

“I’m excited about moving forward with the project,” said Kuspa, who especially likes the large letters spelling “OAK FOREST” over the station’s main entrance, which faces the intersection.

City Clerk Scott Burkhardt and Ald. Jim Hortsman (6th) share Kuspa’s enthusiasm, saying they expect more development as the economy continues to improve.



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