IDOT approves installation of two new billboards in 45th Ward
by BRIAN NADIG
The Illinois Department of Transportation has approved the installation of two digital billboards along the Kennedy Expressway in Gladstone Park despite the objections of Alderman John Arena (45th).
The approximately 100-foot-tall billboards will be installed on Northwest Highway, one at Austin Avenue near the Gladstone Park Metra station and the other at Menard Avenue near a Senior Suites living complex. Each billboard will be one-sided and will face traffic on the Kennedy Expressway.
Arena has said that the billboards would shine light into nearby homes. He expressed his concerns to the transportation department, which is required to make sure that billboards adhere to the rules contained in Federal Highway Beautification Act.
About 40 digital billboards are planned for installation on city-owned parcels, primarily along expressways. The project is expected to generate $155 million for the city over a 20-year period.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration reportedly worked with some aldermen to find an alternate site for digital billboards in their wards. However, finding a suitable location in the 45th Ward is difficult because the sections of the ward adjacent to the Kennedy are primarily residential, according to Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh.
Before the billboard ordinance was approved a year ago, Arena’s staff had scheduled a meeting with the mayor’s administration to discuss the proposed locations in the ward, but the administration had to cancel the meeting, which was never rescheduled, Brugh said.
The plan for one of the locations on Northwest Highway nearly caused a company to drop plans to move to Gladstone Park because of concerns that the base of the billboard would restrict vehicle access to the rear of the company’s building, but that issue was resolved, Brugh said.
Earlier this year the state approved two other digital billboards in the ward, at 4639 N. Lamon Ave. near the Mayfair Pumping Station and at 4840 W. Sunnyside Ave. near a city Department of Water Management yard. Arena, who was one of six aldermen to vote against the digital billboard program, also objected to those sites.
A two-sided digital billboard is planned along the Edens Expressway on a site near a Kmart department store at 5033 N. Elston Ave.