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All of the Specialized Tricross bikes have aluminum forks, except for the Tricross Elite Steel model, which has a chromoly steel fork. While that bike would have been ideal for your wish list, it's unfortunately and unfairly beyond your current budget. OTOH, the Surly Cross Check aslo has a chromoly steel fork and fits neatly into your budget. Therefore, I would gladly select the Cross Check!

However, in order to address your actual commuter needs, you might wanna take a look at the GT Corsa 1.0. It lists at $1100 and has Tiagra componentry.

* For such a short commute, if there are no serious inclines, perhaps a single speed would be more to your liking:
The Fuji Declaration - $450
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