(CBS) — It’s not every day a road construction project comes to a halt. But this is no ordinary obstacle.
CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports.
It’s been more than 100 years since thousands of unknown and unclaimed bodies were buried off of Oak Park Avenue. When state preservationists saw a project was going through there, officials tweaked the work to avoid disturbing any of these long-forgotten graves.
The stretch of Oak Park Avenue between Irving Park and Forest Preserve Drive is getting a facelift: new lights, sidewalks and protected bike lanes.
It’s the storm sewer changes that hit a snag.
“The snag was there’s 38,000 bodies,” says Ward 38 Ald. Nicholas Sposato, referring to a potter’s field.
You would never know if not for a memorial park, several hundred yards from the roadway. The sick, the poor, victims of the Chicago Fire, even Civil War vets are buried there. They are the dead no one claimed.
That hasn’t stopped development in the area, nor did it block Oak Park Avenue.
“It should have been not desecrated to start with — it’s too late,” nearby resident Marcy Nells says.
Ald. Sposato says the laws are different now. CDOT now has an archeologist on the team monitoring daily work to make sure those forgotten souls aren’t forgotten again.
“Everything worked, everybody should be happy, no complaints. The reconstruction of this road is going to be the start of good things to come,” Sposato says.
The changes did add about $1 million to the cost of the project. After it’s complete, plans for the area include completing a home for homeless vets, a big multi-purpose field and a high school.