Oak Park Village Manager Cara Pavlicek last week outlined her top priorities for funding capital improvement projects in the village during 2020.

Lake Street

According to the village, Lake Street’s infrastructure is nearing the end of its useful life. The village recommends updating the street in a three-fold project based on utility, resurfacing and streetscaping. 

“I think that it’s really critical that we move forward with this project,” said Pavlicek.

The utility portion consists of water main replacement from Oak Park Avenue to Euclid Avenue and sewer replacement from Grove Avenue to Euclid Avenue. It also includes lining sewers in sections from Euclid Avenue to Ridgeland Avenue. The resurfacing third of the project extends from Euclid Avenue to Austin Boulevard.    

According to Pavlicek, Lake Street is a state project. “The state issues the request for proposal and they will select the contractor that will do the majority of the work because Lake Street is a state road,” said Pavlicek. The village has hired a contractor to handle the sewers. 

Major streetscape upgrades will happen in the downtown Oak Park and Hemingway District portions of Lake Street.

The state will pay for part of the project, but the village will pay the majority. Local funds are recommended to cover the utility portion, while CIP and federal Surface Transportation Program funds will cover the resurfacing and streetscaping, respectively. The total estimated cost of the project is $12.1 million. Construction would start in spring of 2020.

Sidewalks and alleys

The Public Works Department maintains 250 miles of sidewalks and 51 miles of alleys. “Annually, we do a lot of sidewalk, alley and residential street upgrades and that is one large lump of money,” said Pavlicek. “We do that based upon an independent engineering rating of what areas are in the worst condition.”

To maintain the viability of Oak Park sidewalks, the village is recommending an increase of local funds by $25,000 from last year to $50,000 for 2020 to cover the cost of sidewalk cutting, a technology that eliminates trip hazards by angle cutting sidewalks at elevation differences in lieu of full replacements. Sidewalk cutting sidesteps the curing time of traditional concrete replacements and will be utilized for sidewalks outside of schools and business areas. Community Block Grant Program (CBGP) funds do not cover sidewalk cutting.

Alleys, long ignored by the village, are now being slowly upgraded. In 2020 the village recommends $1.35 million — $913,050 from CIP funds — be spent on alley reconstruction. Existing alleys are replaced with new concrete alleys that have inverted crowns to improve drainage. Other alleys need storm drains and sewers due to flat topography. 

Police Station

The Oak Park police station, located in the basement of Village Hall since the 1970s, is overcrowded, inefficient and obsolete, said Pavlicek. A space needs assessment of the facility was completed in 2019. Construction of a new station has long been an objective of the police department and village.   

“How we want to repair and replace, if that is the decision, elements of the police facility, I think is one of the key decisions we need to make this year,” said Pavlicek. “That’s a high priority from my perspective.” 

The village recommends $4 million be used in 2020 and $31 million in 2021 to fund construction of a new site. The estimated expenditures do not include land purchases nor environmental remediation. The village has previously discussed a new police station on the green space at the south end of the current village hall complex.

Wide Area Network (WAN) Upgrade

The village is recommending the replacement of its wide area network, a computer network extending throughout Oak Park, connecting technology services to the fire and police stations, village hall, schools and more. The current network is over 15 years old, has limited capacity and is subject to outages.

An upgraded system would increase transmission speeds and bolster network resiliency. The village projects it will cost $2.5 million to replace and upgrade the wide area network. The cost will be split three ways almost completely equally between the village’s Capital Improvement Fund, parking revenues and water/sewer revenues.

Drinking Water Improvements

Improvements to the village’s drinking water rounds out Pavlicek’s top five CIP projects. The suggested improvements are not separated into its own project, as there is a drinking water component in most projects. For the Lake Street project, $662,000 is proposed to be spent on drinking water alone.    

“One of the most important things we do as a municipal government is our water drinking system. That’s one of our important responsibilities that people kind of take for granted,” said the village manager. “We manage a water system, where most of it is 120 plus years old and people really rely on that to just manage basic activities in their lives.”

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