Oak Lawn Community High School’s statement on the Southwest Highway Overpass:
The Southwest Highway pedestrian overpass was built in the early 1960’s to allow students to cross from the main campus to what was at that time the only field and open area near the school. The overpass was used each period during the school day in order for students to participate in physical education classes or if a class was looking to use an outdoor space. The football team used the overpass each day during the season to travel to and from their practice field. The overpass was also used by students walking to school from the East.
During the past 20 years, the overpass was utilized less and less as the main campus expanded North to 93rd Street and the football field’s natural grass was replaced with synthetic turf. The synthetic turf alone allowed 24/7 unlimited use of the field. The acquisition of the 93rd Street residential properties provided alternative practice areas closer to the school. Physical education classes and athletic teams were no longer required to take the journey across the overpass to the practice field. They had the choice of using the turf field or the grass fields along 93rd Street.
Although the overpass was being used on a limited basis, the District reviewed several proposals over the years to modernize and replace the structure. One such proposal included modernizing the overpass to incorporate bicycle use and to expand the structure over 95th Street. Unfortunately, the District nor the Village was able to secure the funding for such an endeavor. In recent years, the District solicited reports from architects and engineers to update and replace the deteriorating structure. Both proposals were costly. The cost just to replace the crumbling concrete stairs and provide a much-needed facelift to the painted cross beams and safety rails was projected at more than half a million dollars. A complete rebuild and modernization to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act would cost more than a million dollars.
After reviewing the construction options, the minimal pedestrian usage, and the limited capital resources available, the District determined the deteriorating overpass had to be removed for safety reasons and no replacement structure would be built in its place. The overpass was removed last week during the school’s winter break.
Students who were accustomed to using the overpass before and after school are encouraged to cross Southwest Highway by using the crosswalk at the 95th Street intersection. The school administration will have staff members positioned along Southwest Highway to encourage students to safely cross Southwest Highway. Parents and students who have used the Napleton dealership or the BP gas station as drop-off or pick-up areas are encouraged to use the designated drop-off or pick-up areas on the North or South sides of the school.