Officials from the villages of Elmwood Park and River Forest are teaming up on a streetscape improvement project on North Avenue where it passes through the two municipalities.

North Avenue between Thatcher and Harlem avenues is the municipal boundary between the two communities.

The River Forest Village Board took its first step toward the project at the Dec. 12 meeting, with the five trustees present voting to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Elmwood Park. Trustee Bob O’Connell did not attend the meeting.

Brian Murphy, River Forest’s village administrator, explained in a memo to the village board that there is a “shared desire to create a more walkable and pedestrian friendly environment” along North Avenue.

Under the intergovernmental agreement, River Forest agrees to split the $274,303 cost of a Phase 1 engineering study for streetscape improvements along North Avenue. Elmwood Park officials previously contracted with Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. of Rosemont to conduct the study.

According to the agreement, Elmwood Park will be responsible for monthly payments to Burke Engineering and will invoice River Forest for 50 percent of the total.

Murphy said River Forest will cover its half of the project cost with funds from the North Avenue Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District that was created in August 2018.

Because North Avenue is Illinois Route 64, the project will involve the participation of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). Although Burke Engineering estimates a 12-month timeline, according to Murphy, that timeline will depend on input from IDOT.

Burke Engineering officials said in a  memo to Paul Volpe, Elmwood Park’s village manager, that North Avenue is under IDOT jurisdiction and is a Class II state-maintained truck route carrying over 30,000 vehicles per day including bus transit service on Pace bus Route 318.

“The objective of the streetscape enhancements is to create a more walkable and pedestrian-friendly environment along this vital economic retail/commercial and transportation corridor,” the memo stated. “The objective of completing the Phase I engineering study is to improve the project readiness scoring on future grant applications as well as advance the project funding that has been made available through Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity appropriations.”

Burke Engineering officials said the overall scope of work includes streetscape improvements from Thatcher on the west to Harlem on the east. Improvements to those two intersections will be omitted as all legs of those intersections are fully under IDOT jurisdiction and improvements are being made to those intersections prior to the implementation of the North Avenue project. 

Detailed improvements may include curb line modifications, bump-outs, sidewalks/pavers, crosswalk/curb ramps, planters/trees, wayfinding, gateway features, bus stop enhancements and roadway lighting.

The existing lane configuration of North Avenue will be maintained. The objective of the project is to work within the existing North Avenue right-of-way and avoid property acquisition.

The project will start with data collection, which includes traffic counts, crash analysis, a topographic survey and required environmental surveys. Some additional environmental studies will be required due to the proximity of the Des Plaines River to the Thatcher Avenue intersection and its associated floodway/floodplain and fringe wetlands.

Burke Engineering’s project team will conduct a survey of property/business stakeholders along North Avenue to obtain information of existing issues they have and desired improvements.

A public information meeting also will be held to seek input from the general public on the proposed recommended improvements.

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