The utility and sewer work portion of the Oak Park Avenue improvement project has been completed – both on time and on budget, according to Jim Prescott of Prescott Group, the firm handling project communication. The resurfacing of the street is now in progress, which is expected to wrap up in November.

The utility and sewer leg of the project began in March. Activity surrounding sewer and utility replacement was particularly heavy around the Southtown Business District, said Prescott.

The work required significant attention due to the archaic age of the utilities and sewers. As with Lake Street, Oak Park’s most recently renovated roadway, many of Oak Park Avenue’s sewers and utilities were over 100 years old.

“They had served their purpose and needed to be replaced,” said Prescott.

With that part of the project completed and crossed off the renovation to-do list, construction crews have turned their attention to the resurfacing portion which will extend from North Avenue to Roosevelt Road, with the exception of the Hemingway District which is on either side of Lake Street.

“The contractors are replacing crossing ramps and sections of sidewalk and curb,” said Prescott. “All in preparation for the milling and the pavement patching and then pavement operations.”

Milling refers to the process of peeling off the top layer of the old asphalt, he said. Once the top layer is removed, crews will patch up areas as needed, then pour new asphalt. 

The Hemingway District section of Oak Park Avenue – Ontario to Pleasant — is expected to be worked on in 2023. The village delayed the intense water, sewer and utility work there to give relief to the district’s businesses, which were impacted much of last year by Lake Street construction. The major renovation of Lake Street coincided with the early months of the COVID-19.

“That project started just before everything shut down with COVID,” Prescott recalled.

The shutdown presented major changes to traffic patterns, which he said presented both opportunities and difficulties. COVID-19 necessitated major revisions to the work schedule. While the pandemic is certainly not over, it hasn’t had a considerable impact on the Oak Park Avenue project.

“We haven’t seen that necessarily here,” said Prescott.

The only potential challenge concerned the Southtown Business District, as shops and storefronts feared construction would deter customers from visiting, negatively impacting their businesses. Those fears were understood and already anticipated.

“That’s why we put a lot of attention and focus on communicating to the public that those businesses were open,” Prescott said.

The communication plan utilized all available channels from banners and signage to mailers sent directly to residents. The village of Oak Park also provided temporary parking spaces to give shoppers an easier time accessing businesses. Prescott received little in the way of complaints.

“The businesses in that particular district were satisfied with the effort,” he said.

They were particularly happy with the signs and banners hung on light poles, according to Prescott.

He anticipates no major complications will arise that would inhibit progress. The entire Oak Park Avenue project, save the Hemingway District, should be complete as scheduled by November.

“Knock on wood,” he added.

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