Engineering firm has long played role in improving village’s infrastructure
By LAUREN BARRY
When Christopher B. Burke looks out of his office window at the eastern edge of Rosemont, he can see how much progress his engineering firm has made over the past three decades.
Since he chose Rosemont as the home for Christopher B. Burke Engineering in 1987, the village and his firm have aided each other in tackling hard-to-reach projects.
And while Burke has become a go-to engineer for Northwest suburban municipalities, Rosemont has developed into a destination for shopping, dining and entertainment in the past three decades.
Burke said his first contact with Rosemont came before he began his own firm. Back then, in the early 1980s, the village was struggling with flooding issues. These included a viaduct issue near the Metra line that would sometimes shut down train service in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Though his years in the village, flood prevention would continue to be a key focus of Burke’s work, along with transportation. Two touchstone projects were the widening of Willow Creek and the “Four for the Future” project to improve Balmoral Avenue.
“It was an ambitious program,” he said of the five-year plan to widen the Willow Creek channel to 3-1/2 times its initial width. Eventually, the creek project was able to remove approximately 200 Rosemont residents from the Des Plaines River floodplain. Burke attributes the success of the project to then-mayor Donald E. Stephens: “He committed to it.”
In addition to Willow Creek, flood and stormwater prevention projects Burke has had a hand in over the years include: installation of two pumping stations in the village’s residential area, and work on the O’Hare reservoir that began a decade ago.
One particular project stands out in Burke’s memory: construction of a 40-ft. deep reservoir underneath the parking garages near Rosemont Theatre.
“It’s a very interesting project no one really thinks about or knows about,” Burke said.
While keeping Rosemont dry helped the village grow, allowing for greater commuter access really put the village on the map.
From the 1990s through today, improvements, expansions and other engineering work on Balmoral Avenue have made it easier for motorists to access both Rosemont and O’Hare Airport.
“We’ve been working with [the Illinois Dept. of Transportation] to make Balmoral a central focus,” Burke explained. “It’s decades of work, the village’s vision, and that is really a theme that still continues today.”
One recently completed Balmoral Avenue project was construction of a bridge over Mannheim Road providing a new access point to the airport.
“It’s a complex network,” Burke said. “I can see from my office, two or three of the major roadways.”
For Burke, being able to see the results of his firm’s work with Rosemont everyday helps him remember why the field of civil engineering is important.
“We can promote progress, and we can be valuable to humanity,” he said. “That’s why we got into it.”