As broad planning continues for the eventual remaking and expansion of the Eisenhower Expressway, including the stretch through Oak Park, interesting and complex details are beginning to surface. One topic discussed Monday night by Oak Park’s village board is who will pay to replace aging and failing water mains and sewers which currently run under the 55-year-old highway and link portions of the village. 

Such infrastructure upgrades could end up costing the village an estimated $13.4 million – roughly $5.4 million to replace five failing water mains and $8 million to update aging sewers at Oak Park Avenue and East Avenue – according to village engineer Bill McKenna.

McKenna said three of the five water mains have failed, which have required preventative rehabilitation work to maintain them. The Eisenhower project is not likely to happen for another 10 years. McKenna said it would be a good time to improve the utilities.

Village Manager Cara Pavlicek told village trustees at Monday night’s board meeting that the village is advocating for the Illinois Department of Transportation to pick up the check.

She said the determination will be based on agreements between Oak Park and IDOT when the Eisenhower was built in the late 1950s. Pavlicek said village staff is currently reviewing Cook County records to determine what financial obligations for such work were stated in those half-century old agreements.

Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said he’s concerned about the steep price tag. Pete Harmet, who heads the I-290 expansion management team for IDOT, said he’s seen projects like this go both ways.

“It depends on what kind of agreement was in place,” he said, adding that generally the practice when building or rebuilding an expressway is the state will pay for infrastructure installation, but municipalities would be responsible for upkeep of the infrastructure.

Village officials also discussed recommendations for the expansion of sidewalks and seven bridges in Oak Park that cross the Eisenhower that will be rebuilt as part of the project. 

McKenna said most bridges need to be widened and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility needs to be improved at several of the bridges. 

“You have some corners now with no ramps at all and some with ramps that aren’t up to today’s (ADA) standards,” he said. 


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