Faster on Lake Street

Opinion: Editorials

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Never let a good crisis go to waste. And we have a doozy with COVID-19.

A smart move by the village of Oak Park, therefore, to take advantage of the effective shutdown of many businesses at and near Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street to dive into planned sewer and utility replacement at the intersection. The upshot is that instead of a series of partial closures of the intersection over an extended time period the crossroads will be fully closed by the time you read this editorial. 

By closing fully and adding more workers tackling aspects of the major project simultaneously, the work will be completed in 7-10 days rather than the original four-week schedule. More pain, but a time when most everyone is sequestered in their living rooms.

Every good decision the village and project managers can make on the massive rebuilding of Lake Street from Harlem to Euclid (and the more modest repaving of the street from Euclid to Austin Boulevard) is critical. For all the years this project has been contemplated and debated, timing was always set with the goal of having the project — sewers, water mains, utilities, curbs, pavers, fancy streetscaping, new lighting and traffic signals — complete before Thanksgiving. The idea was to give local business a clear shot at a successful holiday season.

Now with independent businesses traumatized by this already extended shutdown, it becomes essential that, when the stay-at-home orders finally end — June 1? — customers can get to their place of business.

The stakes here are consequential for not only business owners but a community spending $15 million to upgrade its downtown for the decades ahead.

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