project background

The Southwest Conference of Mayors (SCM) led an effort in 2011 to develop a transportation and economic development plan for the Harlem Avenue Corridor. The Conference received grants totaling $200,000 from RTA and IDOT in 2009, and selected the consulting firm URS Corporation to assist with development of the plan. Together with community leaders, agencies, and the public at large, the project team developed a transportation and economic development plan for the Harlem Avenue Corridor. This plan built upon a previously published plan by SCM in 2003 by including a strong understanding of the current market conditions and considering transportation as a key component. This planning project was designed to complement, not supersede, the existing plans of corridor communities, such as citywide Comprehensive Plans or neighborhood plans.

The plan focused on the Harlem Avenue Corridor from 63rd Street on the north to I-80 on the south. The corridor is centered narrowly on Harlem Avenue including the right-of-way and adjoining property. There are ten communities along the corridor: Bedford Park, Bridgeview, Burbank, Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn, Orland Park, Palos Heights, Palos Hills, Tinley Park, and Worth. The corridor also passes through the Forest Preserve of Cook County.

Harlem Avenue is a major transportation corridor in the southwest Cook County suburban area. Daily traffic on Harlem Avenue averages 40,000 vehicles per day. The Harlem Avenue Corridor is served by two Pace bus routes and nearby Metra commuter rail stations at Chicago Ridge, Palos Heights, Tinley Park and Worth. Toyota Park is also served by Pace express bus service from the Chicago Transit Authority’s Orange Line. However, transit service throughout the corridor would benefit from improved connectivity and more frequent service. The final plan addressed pedestrian amenities and transit connections along the corridor as well as sidewalk conditions and streetscape continuity.

There is a diverse mix of land use along the corridor including retail, residential, industrial, entertainment and open space. One of the main objectives of this project was to generate economic development ideas and strategies that complement existing community planning and develop a cohesive strategy aimed at revitalization opportunities corridor-wide. The strategies vary but a unified vision and strong commitment from corridor communities are the foundation and metric of this effort’s success.

The planning project kicked off in May 2010, and was completed in December 2011. The SCM is now actively engaged in implementing the corridor plan.