Oak Park plans to dig up asphalt to reveal brickwork under two streets

Brick streets make a comeback

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Buried somewhere underneath two blocks of North Humphrey are brick streets, now covered in asphalt. Those streets are due for a makeover, but rather than slapping on more asphalt, Oak Park Village Hall plans to unearth the old brickwork in the near future.

Oak Park decked out a handful of streets with bricks as part of a pilot program a couple of years ago, but the effort was eventually scrapped because of the high costs. Bricks are pricier than asphalt initially, but officials say they last much longer, saving costs in the long-run.

The village was set to redo the 500 and 600 blocks of North Humphrey with asphalt, while also fixing the underground sewers. Village Engineer Jim Budrick gave trustees the option of, instead, restoring the original bricks buried a few inches under the street, which trustees picked instead.

Even if it costs an extra $188,000 to deck out those two blocks in bricks, and redo the 400 block of Clinton with concrete instead of asphalt, the $2.76 million contract still came in under budget, said Trustee Ray Johnson. (The contract also includes redoing six blocks in asphalt, too.)

"To be that close to brick and not go with that seems unfortunate, and more costly," Johnson said.

Budrick recommended that the village save the $188,000, and use it toward other items that will need funding later this year — such as $75,000 Oak Park plans to spend later this year to have a consultant run cameras through village sewers to figure out whether there's any blockage.

Trustees John Hedges and Bob Tucker voted no, wanting to instead save the extra $188,000 by using nothing but asphalt.

Budrick said some 30 miles of brick streets in Oak Park were covered with asphalt in the 1950s, though he's unsure why.

The contractor will start redoing the streets likely in the spring, grinding off the top 3 inches of asphalt, and then flipping over the bricks that are buried under the street. Oak Park has some bricks that were buried under the 1100 and 1150 blocks of South Lombard, which are now stockpiled at the old Volvo dealership on Madison Street. The contractor plans to use those leftovers to fill up any of the gaps on Humphrey, Budrick said.

Reader Comments

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Joe from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2013 7:57 AM

@South Lombard: Ray Johnson lives on Austin. You are just looking to complain and throw bags of personal poo without reason.

South Lombard resident  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 7:21 PM

If we were "that close to brick" on South Lombard, why couldn't we keep our own bricks when they redid our street? Because at the time, the village said it was too costly. So they saved our bricks and are now going to use them for Ray Johnson's neighborhood?

Jon from South bend  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 4:13 PM

The price of asphalt is tied to the price of oil. Therefore, the price volatility risk for the future is very high. Cities that are planning for the future will move away from solutions that have a close linkage with oil. Look at the cost escalation of oil over the past ten years and figure the same escalation over the next ten years. Price escalation of oil based products will eventually lead to a decline in the use of asphalt. It is better to move in a different direction now by choice.

Anthony Munoz from Oak Park  

Posted: August 22nd, 2011 9:47 AM

Like most communities there are some urgent infrastructure work needed in Oak Park. I'd have to put looking into the constant flooding problem at my priority if it came to allocating funds. After that I agree with Trustee Salzman's assessment that available bricks would be a savings in the long term and very environmentally, not to mention esthetically, pleasing. As a cyclist, there will continue to be plenty of non-bricked Oak Park streets for my family to ride on.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 18th, 2011 6:32 PM

Please stay on topic and try to actually participate in the discussion, Silly or whoever you are. Spare us the digs at John Murtagh. Your constant bullying and disrespectful antics disrupt the public discourse and contribute nothing to the debate. More than 50 comments have been posted regarding this issue and only yours was meanspirited.

AlsoAware from Oak Park  

Posted: August 18th, 2011 2:44 PM

Good point John. It makes it much easier when board members cue in on the forums then calling them to find out information. It's good that there is a special attachment for snow plowing. Now we just need to figure out how to make brick pavers easy on cars and bicycles. Then lets get Oak Park back to brick. Brick street look great.


Posted: August 18th, 2011 12:51 PM

Murtagh.....You talk too much, You never........

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 18th, 2011 12:48 PM

I agree that having board members communicating with the residents is a good thing. I only wish their participation was more proactive and less reactive.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 18th, 2011 11:46 AM

According to Gertrude Fox Hoagland (Historical Survey of Oak Park, 1937), of the 108 mi. of public streets in 1937, only 11 mi. were brick (10.4%). Since asphaltic concrete (37 mi.), concrete (5 mi.), and asphalt (34 mi.) were already in use at that time (the remaining 20 mi. was Macadam, layers of stone with a coating of binder as a cementing agent), I am not certain whether 30 mi. of brick streets in Oak Park were covered with asphalt in the 1950s. Other info is welcome.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 18th, 2011 10:05 AM

Village engineer Jim Budrick addressed the issue of snowplowing on brick paved streets and said there is a special attachment used to prevent damage.

AlsoAware from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 9:37 PM

David Pope, brick lasts longer than asphalt, but at what cost to bicyclists, automobiles, snow plowing? Jim Coughlin, our government is broke. Adam Salzman from Oak Park, you didn't answer my questions.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 8:44 PM

I don't know about awarding a badge to Trustee Salzman but we should all appreciate the fact he was willing to engage in this important discussion. People are frustrated by the fact that so much of Oak Park's infrastructure is in need of vital repairs and we are only able to address the problem on a very limited basis. This is a problem in many communities. It's really up to the federal government to take the lead, allocate the funds and begin rebuilding America.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park   

Posted: August 17th, 2011 8:14 PM

@John Murtagh How did you know, John? I did get a badge for my participation in this discussion. It's inscribed with the words, "I went toe-to-toe with John Murtagh on OakPark.com and all I got was this lousy badge."

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 6:13 PM

Life cycle costs (LCC) are an appropriate method for comparing street improvement alternatives only if; a) the time value of money (Net Present Value) and discount rates were factored accordingly over the entire useful life of the street, and b) the village has adequate funding to cover the initial higher costs w/o reducing funding / services elsewhere. The LCC report is not posted, so it cannot be verified how it was completed.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 5:25 PM

Thanks Adam. Did you get a little badge for your virtual role as content director. Stick to lecturing. You don't read well enough to be busting people for WJ Content Violations.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 3:20 PM

"Even if it costs an extra $188,000 to deck out those two blocks in bricks, and redo the 400 block of Clinton with concrete instead of asphalt, the $2.76 million contract still came in under budget, said Trustee Ray Johnson. (The contract also includes redoing six blocks in asphalt, too.)". For now, anyway.

David Pope from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 3:13 PM

Many comments here miss the key underlying issue (and, understandably so, since it's not mentioned anywhere in the article). Namely, the fully-loaded average annual lifecycle cost of using brick on residential streets is actually lower than the fully-loaded average annual lifecycle cost of using asphalt. In other words, on an ongoing basis it's less expensive to use brick. Asphalt, while cheaper in a single application, is more expensive over a similar lifecycle for maintaining the str

AlsoAware from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 12:55 PM

Adam Salzman, who pays for the bricks? Why did bricks become covered over with asphalt? I have always enjoyed real paved streets when in Europe, and enjoying the view from my dining table. But then I drove on paved streets and they are not enjoyable, and they put un-necessary wear on vehicles, and they are not easy to ride a bike on. Is there anyway we can have both paved streets and the comfort of driving on them, because I really like brick streets.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 12:34 PM

@AlsoAware I suppose you can take steps in any direction, and your idea of "backward" might be very different from another resident's idea of "backward." However, the issue is not "enjoyment" of brick streets on other people's money. Those residents who are lucky enough to have freshly paved streets are not "enjoying" them on other people's money. Streets and the maintenance thereof are infrastructural necessity. And the issue is what method of maintenance is best and most cost-effective.

Also Aware from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 12:19 PM

Adam Salzman, "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." Is it possible that you taking a thousand mile trip backwards? Not all steps lead to progress. Some are just for the enjoyment of brick streets on other person's monies.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 17th, 2011 12:05 PM

@Asphalt jungle No "cards" are being played. It's an honest consideration that public officials and communities are well within their rights to consider. By your logic, it's pointless to engage in any conservation efforts at all because pollutants already exist. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. @john murtagh I am not sure what you are talking about--it seems like you are back to the Comcast site housing development and the LEED component. And that is not the issue here.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 5:54 PM

The village is building itself a bit trap with using "Green" as the reason or excuse for decision they make. Green & Leed was a lead reason cited as a reason for OP approval. Always ignored was the fact that the developer's motivation was to get some additional environmental points from the state in the race for financing. The danger of asphalt was used repeatedly as the excuse to use brick on Humphrey. Specious reason and faulty excuse ultimately have paybacks -- not matter how noble.

Asphalt jungle  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 5:41 PM

Given the abundance of asphalt in OP, I doubt a few blocks of brick is going to make any significant difference in exposure to toxic chemicals, even to residents of those blocks. But now that the "anything for the children" card has been played, its going to be difficult to justify not brick paving every street from now on. Any yeah, that photo of Belleforte doesn't look too bike-friendly.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 12:05 PM

To the best of my recollection, May 16, 2011 (at the same meeting as the Madison Housing Proposal discussion).

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 11:31 AM

@AdamSalzman ... at what village board meeting was the decision made with regard to 500-600 N. Humphrey Ave.?

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 11:13 AM

Actually, the convergence of street improvements and opportunities to address flood mitigation is something that I think was simply not evaluated, and it should have been evaluated. I will raise that issue at the next opportunity.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 11:05 AM

@A.Salzman: thanks for your response. I am unable to address the 500-600 N. Humphrey blocks specifics, as I cannot find inclusion (or supplemental info) in previous board agendas. I noted stormwater mitigation, as street improvements are the best time to include such strategies, from permeable pavement to street systems for temporarily storing stormwater surcharge. I was surprised there was $188K available, as improvements were cut by 2 blocks last year due to lack of funds.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 10:33 AM

in and of themselves are not sufficient. They need to be clearly researched and evaluated within a larger strategic approach, and I agree that this is one area in which the Village could certainly improve. That is the way, as "Enuf" states, that you really tackle the issue of cost allocation. Otherwise, you make each decision in isolation. So, acknowledging those flaws in the methodology, that is how I decided to go with the brick this time.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 10:27 AM

(cont'd from below) whether street resurfacing is a "vanity project." Streets need to be maintained. So the issue is how to maintain them and how much to spend. (2) I agree that there need to be alternatives presented when evaluating expenditures like this, and have raised this issue in our protocols session and in other meetings. And actually, staff has done their best to respond. The choice to go with brick was made from a set of three alternatives. That said, alternatives (cont'd)

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 10:21 AM

I appreciate all of this feedback. A couple of points, I think, bear emphasis: (1) One thing I have learned in my first 100 days on the Board is that it's not as simple as having a one pot of money, grabbing a fistful of cash and making the choice between resurfacing a street or flood mitigation. Flood mitigation is obviously a very high priority at the moment. But street resurfacing is an important infrastructural need. Ask someone who's street has not been repaved in a decade (cont'd)

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 16th, 2011 9:01 AM

From what I've observed, Trustee Salzman has been fairly well-prepared, and willing and able to ask the right questions as an elected official at village board meetings. With regard to all policymaking and fiscal stewardship, I simply wanted to encourage him to always; a) ask who is deriving the benefits and who is paying the costs, b) how are finite funds prioritized and allocated equitably, and c) have all the alternatives been considered? This due diligence has been lacking on the board.

Awareness from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2011 5:35 PM

Enuf is Enuf, you make sense that there is a real need to spend the money elsewhere. Unfortunately, no board member agrees to making financial sense. As for being green in Oak Park, I noticed a fire hydrant being stripped of decades of different layers of paint, and most likely including lead paint. There was no effort to collect any of the paint dust and created a cloud of dust carrying up to a half block away.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 15th, 2011 4:55 PM

Enu, I agree with you fully. Storm drain much more important than brick streets. The problem is that storm drains are not near as cute as brick streets.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 15th, 2011 12:34 PM

@AdamSalzman ... in response to your statement re. environmental factors, I would respond that the policy challenge is prioritizing these factors within the limited budget. The most pressing concern for the 500-600 N. Humphrey blocks and NE OP is flooded basements, as evidenced this summer. I would suggest using the $188,000 funds towards stormwater mitigation strategies in conjunction w/ street improvements, as brick streets have no stormwater mitigation benefits.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 14th, 2011 8:42 PM

@A.Salzman: I was not implying that 30 mi. would be at once, as I am aware that street improvements are budgeted one mi. (usually 8 blocks) per year. In terms of horizontal equity, I was asking on what basis are streets improvements costs allocated? Residential property owners are req'd. to pay 50% for new brick streets, while added costs for recovered brick streets and new downtown brick streets are provided at no cost. Should not public infrastructure costs be allocated equitably?

Adam Salzman from Oak Park, IL   

Posted: August 14th, 2011 7:40 PM

@Enuf is Enuf Truthfully, it may not be wise or cost-effective to take each opportunity that arises to employ this particular approach. I would evaluate each opportunity with fresh eyes on a case-by-case basis. Your hypothesis that does not conform to the way the board makes these decisions. We will never resurface 30 miles of our streets at once. And we need to consider the costs of the shorter life cycle associated with concrete resurfacing. On top of all that, there are environmental factors.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 14th, 2011 6:20 PM

Somewhere there is a creative developer that is going to create a town or village for bikers only. No cars, no trucks, no pedestrians, no fat, lots of energy, protein enriched water from the tap, etc. The streets will have no speed limits, no stop lights or signs,and will be hilly, curved, and have a mountain for extremists. The village will have a roof so biking can be year round, an ordinance that all retail stores have to 87 different brands of water, drive-in health clubs and no hot dogs.

The from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: August 14th, 2011 4:53 PM

Cyclist from Oak Park from Chicago. You have assumed that I am a Sir. That makes you an ass for assuming. A bicyclist parked her bike in a parking spot at 7 -11, taking up a spot for a car meaning possible lost revenue for the 7 -11. Is that an idiot? You must be one of the many bicyclists that don't follow the rules of the road, and needs to be watched out for, and if you do get hit by a car, you are the one to blame the car and not you self absorbed self.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: August 14th, 2011 4:02 PM

@AdamSalzman: Given the fact that the cost of uncovering brick streets is $188,000/2 blocks (1/4 mile) above and beyond asphalt paving, and given the fact that 30% of 102 miles of OP streets are bricks streets covered w/ asphalt, the total cost to apply the same policy to all streets is $22,560,000 (2011 dollars). Is this fiscally sustainable? Given our limited budget, how does this policy compare to the benefits of other possible environmental policies based on the same costs?

Cyclist from Oak Park from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: August 12th, 2011 1:39 PM

You said - "Sure, but the majority of bicyclists that scream for equal rights on the road, are the same idiots who think cars have to watch out for their reckless bicycling." ----You sir are an idiot.

The from Oak Park  

Posted: August 12th, 2011 12:39 PM

Why was brick covered over? It's cheaper and makes a nice road for cars, it's easy to plow, and maintaining it is less expensive then brick, but brick will make Oak Park a more scenic village, and can increase tourism tax money reducing Oak Parker's tax base. Is it more difficult for bicyclists? Sure, but the majority of bicyclists that scream for equal rights on the road, are the same idiots who think cars have to watch out for their reckless bicycling.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: August 12th, 2011 12:32 PM

That's fair, John. I understand your point of view. I would hasten to add, though, that while we are accountable for our expenditures--and I take that accountability very seriously--we're also accountable for the air our children breathe. I believe residents want us to balance both of these competing interests. Fiscal sustainability is important. So is environmental sustainability. I took an honest stab at balancing both. I'll gladly be held accountable for that effort.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 12th, 2011 11:46 AM

Adam - the brick was going no where. If asphalt was laid this time, the opportunity would still be there during the next go-round of asphalting. More than likely, maybe hopefully, the village coffers will be in better shape at that time. The opportunity had no urgency or priority. I stand by my view that spending the $180,000 was impulsive, self-serving, and a poor example of Accountable Leadership.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 12th, 2011 8:34 AM

I don't disagree with your premise, John. I would just dispute that this was a "glossy opportunity" as opposed to needed spending. Anyone whose street needs repaving will attest that passable streets are much higher than "zero" priority. It's an infrastructural necessity. What I meant by "opportunity" was that, due to the already existent brick, we had an unusual opportunity to evaluate which option was the greenest and most cost-effective over the long run. We don't always get that opportunity.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:25 PM

Hi Adam - Your reply, "I think this was just an opportunity that presented us with a set of alternatives." captures OP's biggest problem. It seems that some members of the board have no trouble finding opportunities, pet projects, to spend money that were not in any "plan." $180,000 could have been used to inspect sewers, fix small curb and sidewalk repairs, etc. Accountable Leadership should realize that needed spending trumps glossy opportunities. There was zero priority or urgency.

Walt Keneipp from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 11:00 PM

Having 2 trustees comment on a fairly minor story really is part of what our village so great. Considering the next 100 years it may be short sighted to use asphalt, but with taxes representing a burden for so many residents, wherever we can save money now we should.

Adam Salzman from Oak Park, IL   

Posted: August 11th, 2011 8:13 PM

@Oak Park Resident I believe the two most common bases beneath brick are concrete or a mixture of gravel and sand. In this case, I cannot say for certain, but if we are working from the original bricks that were set many years ago, I doubt that it would be concrete. I will follow up with our Engineer Jim Budrick and find out. @john murtagh Of course it wouldn't be feasible to redo all the streets in brick. I think this was just an opportunity that presented us with a set of alternatives.

Oak Park Resident  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 5:25 PM

What will be the base under the brick Mr. Salzman?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 4:52 PM

If it is greener, can we expect to see all the streets redone in brick?

Adam Salzman from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 4:05 PM

One thing that should have been stated at the meeting, and that certainly influenced my vote in favor of the brick, is that the brick option, while slightly more expensive in the short term (though probably not, as Trustee Johnson has noted, in the long term), is certainly the greener option. Asphalt contains a number of toxic air pollutants. Therefore, when an alternative is available, I think it makes sense for the Village to opt for it.

Oak Park and Lake from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 3:18 PM

Ray, what was the cost comparison between reusing the bricks or using concrete on these two blocks? Concrete lasts longer than asphalt and won't give the plows a hard time, but I wonder which last longer, bricks or concrete.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 2:25 PM

Actually, the life cycle cost of brick saves taxpayer money. Rather than having to maintain and redo asphalt on a continuous basis, brick lasts 50 years on each side. Several board members are bicyclists and it was noted by staff that this section of two blocks will not be on the bike path. Had the bricks not already been available for use at this particular location, we would not have proceeded.

epic lulz  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 1:25 PM

What we really need are some actual cyclists on the Board.

Claudia from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 9:24 AM

I'm glad to see the comment about brick streets and bicycles. Brick streets are terrible for cycling. They do make an excellent base for smooth pavement.

Walt Keneipp from Oak Park  

Posted: August 11th, 2011 8:25 AM

I appreciate having trustees like John Hedges and Bob Tucker on the board. In this economy and Oak Park's already very high taxes, it makes no sense to spend more money just because it would be a shame "to be that close to brick and not go with it..." Our own village engineer recommended against spending the extra $188,000, but only Hedges and Tucker agreed. We need more trustees who spend money as if it were their own.

Eilene McCullagh Heckman  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 5:09 PM

Lawd! I remember back when I was a kid when everyone was in such a darned hurry to blacktop over everything because it made it easier for the snow plows. So long as the village promises to properly maintain the paving bricks so bicyclists don't go flying all over the place...I'm in. There are streets in Forest Park that will shatter teeth.

Violet Aura  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 1:48 PM

Hey, I say let's dig even further down and perhaps uncover a Lemurian temple!

Stormy from Oak Park ('60-'79)  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 12:32 PM

The 700 block of South Maple Ave. is probably the last block in Oak Park to have been paved over. I remember the original bricks on that street until well into the 1960s, probably at least until 1966.

Let me help you spend the money wisely!  

Posted: August 10th, 2011 10:04 AM

How about the Village Engineer and Trustees use that "saved money" on figuring out why the block of 900 N. Lombard and surrounding blocks have flooded atleast 4 times in the last 14 months. That would be helpful.

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