A vote against Holley Court garage expansion explained

Opinion

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Hello, everyone. I'm writing this letter to explain my vote to reject the guaranteed maximum price (GMP) contract to "fast track" phase one of the westward expansion of the Holley Ct. garage. The contract we were asked to approve had many flaws, and in the aggregate, I felt they outweighed the positives to the community at large:

The garage extension was divided into four phases, only two of which would be governed by GMP contracts. The other two are TBD, or should I say TBB: to be budgeted.

One example is moving the guard shack from the north end of the garage to the south, to provide visibility (and commensurate sense of security) at the end of the Lake Street entrance to the garage. Good idea, but it won't be cheap.

The guard shack houses security monitoring for all Oak Park garages (not just Holley Ct.), and is where the phone operators are based who respond to citizen calls for overnight parking passes. Imagine what it will cost to re-route all of that cabling, move the equipment, reconfigure the garage to "make a hole" for the office, etc. This and other TBB projects would likely boost the cost of the garage expansion beyond the $7.2 million called out in the redevelopment agreement with Whiteco, and I wasn't prepared to approve phase one without knowing the "all in" cost.

The proposed reconfiguration of traffic in the garage will exit all traffic eastward toward Marion (currently, traffic can also exit northward toward Ontario). That's a four-fold increase in traffic being dumped onto Marion Street at rush hour. It's fair to assume that most of the traffic will head to Lake Street.

The intersection of Lake and Marion is already jammed during the afternoon rush, because eastbound traffic on Lake backs up through the intersection. It's a disaster waiting to happen. And it will cost big bucks (also TBB). Here's what has to be done to achieve the plan:

n Removal of existing pay shack and supporting abutment at east entrance/exit.

n Construction of covered bridge to span three lanes of traffic (two outbound, one inbound), necessitating reshaping of existing parkways on either side to anchor bridge.

n Acquisition, installation and programming of transponder units (likely three).

n Demolition of northeast parkway at entrance to Holley Ct., including removal of a 50-foot tree and a 60-foot lamppost, and reconfiguration of existing fire hydrant

This plan also necessitates the loss of 20 of the 30 existing surface lot spaces on Holley Ct., further reducing our limited remaining supply of surface parking. Seems to me the only rational solution is to continue two-way traffic to the north and east.

Finally, the GMP contract guaranteed only that?#34;the price, not the schedule. The schedule shows completion of the structure on Nov. 18, if everything goes perfectly. Introduce some weather-related delays or problems with the foundation (this is noted as a concern in the documentation we received), and completion before the holidays is doubtful.

Our Director of Development even noted that a project of this type normally takes 150 days. Most disconcerting of all, there is no contingency plan for project delays.

I remain concerned about downtown parking, particularly in light of the upcoming holiday shopping season. While I agree that we need more garage parking downtown, it would seem the real problem, at least for the short term, is getting drivers to use all available parking.

Following are summary numbers from a four-quadrant parking survey presented at a Downtown Oak Park meeting I attended a few months ago:

Northwest quadrant: 924 spaces

Northeast quadrant: 474 spaces

Southeast quadrant: 143 spaces

Southwest quadrant: 178 spaces

Total: 1,710 spaces

These figures include available surface and garage parking spaces, but do not include the parking spaces lost at the surface lots where the RSC and Bank One lot projects are being built. So, getting drivers to use all available downtown parking is the goal.

Improved signage will help. And a free valet service over the holidays will also make a huge difference. We already have the perfect spot: the loading zone on the north side of Lake, just east of Marion. Pull-over in the heart of downtown, hand over your keys, go shopping.

The board originally discussed these ideas a study session we held in June with all interested parties, including downtown businesses. Village staff and DTOP have had nearly two months to ruminate on the proposed solutions, and should be ready to act. Accordingly, the board has requested a follow-up report, which should be delivered later this month.

A proactive and cooperative approach to solving our downtown parking woes is required, not rushing forward with an incompletely specified and open-ended project.

Greg Marsey
Oak Park Village Trustee

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