Harsh winter takes toll on streets, alleys

Village considers $20 million bond to fix pavement

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Potholes and crumbling pavement abound on the 500 and 600 blocks of Wesley Avenue in Oak Park, but much to the consternation of those living on the street, it could be another year before those streets are repaved. 

Residents such as Adrienne Krogh say there are so many potholes she's unable to maneuver her car to avoid them.

"We're paying so much in taxes, and the basic infrastructure of our village is crumbling before our eyes," she said.

And the village's alleys are in worse shape than the streets, according to Public Works Director John Wielebnicki. A survey of village streets, conducted last year by consultant Infrastructure Management Services (IMS), shows that on a scale of zero to 100, the village's 120 miles of streets scored an average 70.6, which is considered good, while the 606 alleys in the village scored 59, which is considered poor.

Krogh said she got so "fed up" with the condition of her street, she contacted the village in late February to try to get something done. In March, village work crews were out patching up the uneven and pothole-pocked surface.

But within a couple of months, "The street became gravelly again and the patching was coming up," she said. "We're talking rocks as large as my fist that have come loose from the potholes."

Meanwhile, Krogh saw other streets in the village being repaired that were in much better shape than her block. 

Village leaders are currently trying to figure out whether to issue bond debt to repair dozens of streets and as many as 100 alleys throughout the village. The final price tag for the work could be as high as $20 million.

Wielebnicki acknowledged that the village has a list of the top priorities for street repair, but requests by Wednesday Journal to see the information were declined. The village also has data showing the zero to 100 ranking for various segments of streets and alleys, based on the analysis conducted in 2013 by IMS, but also declined to immediately release the information.

"We hate to give out too much information because it ends up biting us," Wielebnicki said.

Village spokesman David Powers said that "the data doesn't exist in a format that can be printed, published or interpreted by the layman." He added that they are working to put the information in a format that can be released to the press.

Wielebnicki said the village often hears complaints from residents about the prioritization of street and alley repair, but it's not so easy to schedule repairs based solely on the state of a particular roadway. 

The village has to prioritize the repaving of streets based on the cost, he said. A basic repaving of a street can cost roughly $50,000, but if the street needs repairs to the curbs and gutters, it can cost as much as $200,000. If the water and sewer systems below the street need work, that price tag can jump to $400,000 or more.

"The [IMS] list is the first step in looking at how we develop the street improvement or alley improvement program," Wielebnicki said, noting that some street and alley repairs are advanced on the list because prioritizing several streets in need of sewer repairs, for instance, would limit the number that could be repaired in a year.

The 500 and 600 blocks of Wesley Avenue are "in bad shape," he acknowledged, but there are "streets that are just as bad." 

"We want to get it done this year or next year," he said.

Higher-traffic roadways, particularly those with lots of trucks, also get higher priority, he said.

"Trucks cause significantly more damage to roadways because of the weight."

Wielebnicki said the village has $1.7 million budgeted in 2014 for street improvements, but $1.2 million of that is from a one-time state grant known as the Illinois Jobs Now program. The village typically spends about $1 million a year on street improvements and about $800,000 on alley improvements annually, he said.

The village also spends about $200,000 a year patching roadways to make them last longer.

This year the village's roadways suffered heavier damage than prior years because of severe cold.

"Freezing water expands and breaks up the pavement," Wielebnicki said. "Through May, we used more pothole patching material than we did all of last year."

Email: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Herb from Oak park  

Posted: July 16th, 2014 11:13 PM

How can my taxes be so high and my street be so bad. Where does all the money go

OP not what it once was... from Oak Park  

Posted: July 16th, 2014 12:53 PM

Eisenhower doesn't have a pothole on it, the state salts with every storm, seems to me the village is using substandard contractors. My street was just repaved a few years back, it already looks like Beruit

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: July 16th, 2014 10:37 AM

The 600 S. Cuyler block was never finished when it was done several years ago. The asphalt was never laid to the curb - for some reason, work was stopped several feet away from the curb and now we have several layers of asphalt coming off the street.


Posted: July 16th, 2014 9:48 AM

@waiting; have you asked the village for this info. It's avaialble via a freedom of info request should you want it.


Posted: July 16th, 2014 7:44 AM

You hate to give out too much info? Great customer service philosophy from the village. Ideally, all this data on street condition should be public AND if the village were on top of the game we'd have the ability to look up how many years until our street is fixed. This is a double problem: bad streets and bad transparency.

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