Oak Parker Elaine Johnson is happy to hear that the worst alley in the village, located just behind her home, will be repaired later this year. However, that does put a damper on a party she was considering this winter along the bumpy stretch.
“I guess this is the end of the ‘Winter Festival of a Thousand Potholes,'” Johnson said with a laugh. “But it’s really going to make winter a lot easier here.”
The Village of Oak Park just finalized its list of alleys to be repaved in 2010. Eight will get the special treatment this year, as the village board approved a $590,000 contract last week with Schroeder & Schroeder of Skokie.
Work repaving the alleys with concrete is likely to start by the end of this month, and wrap up by October, said Village Engineer Jim Budrick. Each alley will take about a week, and residents on those blocks will get overnight passes to park on the street during the work.
Oak Park picks which alleys are in the worst shape, based on a survey done in 2006, and slates the shoddiest ones for repair. The survey was done using a laser, as a consultant rated each alley on a scale of 1 to 10. The alley between the 1000 blocks of South Kenilworth and Grove was rated as the worst, at 0.8 on the scale.
Wednesday Journal readers, including Elaine Johnson, wrote in last spring after hearing that the worst alley in Oak Park was being dropped from the 2009 repaving list, so the village could save money.
Back then, Johnson, 67, joked that the worst alley could be a tourist attraction; whenever it rained and the potholes filled with water, it would give the alley more lakes than the state of Minnesota, she said.
“When I walk in my alley, it reminds me of being in a third world country,” she said by phone Monday. “It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it shouldn’t exist in Oak Park. It’s dangerous and it’s an eyesore.”
Phyllis Gunning says neighbors on the block were outraged when a resident was cited for the condition of his garage. The residents wanted to band together to jokingly ticket the village for the state of their alley, until they heard it was being repaved.
“We were ready to put something on YouTube, ’cause we felt like we’ve been ignored for so long, but we’d rather have the alley done than create a big stink,” she said.
Oak Park has scaled back its work on alleys over the years, in the face of a tightening budget. In 2006, Oak Park redid 18 alleys, spending $1.2 million. But that number has been more than halved.
Officials had hoped to do another alley this year, but trimmed off the one north of Adams and east of Clinton to keep the project within budget. Oak Park is about three years behind on its plan to fix the worst alleys because of budget cuts, Budrick said.
The village had hoped that prices for repaving alleys would drop from last year. Oak Park actually will pay less than it expected for major street projects on Ridgeland, East Avenue and Roosevelt. But only two companies bid on alley work, Budrick said, because many are already tied up with large highway projects. Plus, there aren’t a lot of costs to be saved on smaller projects such as repaving alleys.
Trustee Ray Johnson emphasized last week that alleys aren’t as high of a priority for the village as sidewalks and streets.
“We can’t do every alley; the funds simply aren’t there,” he said. “But we’re trying to do the alleys that have the greatest negative impact to someone’s yard or garage.”
Gunning understands the order of importance, but she wishes Oak Park would balance its to-do list better.
“There are lots of priorities in Oak Park,” she said. “I think what’s most important is to manage them. Our alley hasn’t been paved for 20 years, as far as I know.”