Major street projects headed to Oak Park

Repaving, sidewalk and sewer upgrades planned for 2020 and 2022

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Two big road construction and streetscaping projects are headed to the village over the next couple of years — one along Lake Street from Harlem to Austin and a second along Oak Park Avenue through the so-called Hemingway District.

The project along Lake Street is set to begin in 2020 and includes streetscaping from Harlem to Euclid, water and sewer replacement from Grove to Euclid and street resurfacing from Euclid to Austin.

The Lake Street project was originally planned to take place this year but was delayed to better sequence with the resurfacing project now taking place on Madison Street.

Village Engineer Bill McKenna told trustees at the Sept. 9 meeting that the village will wait a year to begin the Oak Park Avenue project to give businesses along the commercial corridor time to recover from the disruption of the Lake Street project.

Cook County is contributing $310,000 for the Lake Street resurfacing project, and $3 million in federal funds will be used for the streetscaping portion of the project; the final cost estimate for the project is $1.5 million for the resurfacing project, $1.86 million for the water and sewer project, and $10.2 million for the streetscaping project.

The village also is set to receive $3 million in federal funds for the Oak Park Avenue project. McKenna told trustees that the project is estimated to cost $3.7 million for resurfacing, $4.1 million for water and sewer updates and $3.1 million for streetscaping.

Another $775,000 will go to Terra Engineering Ltd. for the planning and design of the Oak Park Avenue project.

Trustees took no formal action at the board meeting but gave preliminary approval through a straw vote. The vote to fund the design phase of the project and to direct staff to proceed on planning for the Oak Park Avenue project is set to take place at the Sept. 16 board meeting.

Trustees are saddled this year with an ever-tightening budget, prompting some trustees to question whether the streetscaping portion of the Oak Park Avenue project is prudent at this time. 

Trustee Deno Andrews said he wants to see a "very detailed pro forma" on the costs of the Oak Park streetscape project in an effort to rein in spending. 

"I'd like to know everybody who's getting paid and how much," he said, adding that the village should give greater consideration to more neglected business districts in the village.

"We need to be careful about creating a big gem at Lake and Oak Park Avenue at the expense of other business districts," he said.

He suggested setting a budget amount that makes sense and then figuring out what the village can afford, rather than being presented a plan and putting the board in the position of having to remove certain aspects of the proposal.

Trustee Dan Moroney said he was generally opposed to "elaborate streetscapes" because of the cost.

Andrews noted that the village's debt service costs are set to increase about 50 percent over the next two years, calling it a "debt crisis" for taxpayers.

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Reader Comments

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Jim Coughlin  

Posted: September 15th, 2019 12:39 AM

This is strange and new territory for these trustees. Decades of Village boards mortgaging Oak Park's future on various boondoggle projects and doling out millions to well-connected consultants has put the Village's finances in a massive hole. Taxpayers are the hook for a crushing debt that now threatens to negatively impact even basic public services. Families that have lived here for years are being forced to move because of the crushing tax burden. No one has an answer to solve the crisis and some board members still seem willing to stay on this path to financial ruin. The fiduciary responsibilities of all of our elected officials must be honored.

Denis Roarty  

Posted: September 14th, 2019 4:30 PM

Thank you Deno. Please continue to challenge the street-scaping. Maybe I don't understand what street-scaping means but when I look around Oak Park, the appearance of Lake street doesn't even cross my mind as something that needs to be worked on. I would MUCH rather have other taxing bodies like D97 make good use of that money than see it go to making Lake street prettier, if that is what is what we are talking about.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 11:02 AM

The percentages are approximately reversed on the Oak Park Avenue project, with streetscaping- "fluff," as one person calls it- at less than 30 percent. The fact is that while streetscaping is not as important as sewer line replacements and street resurfacing in the grand scheme, it is also not unimportant. But costs can get out of hand, as there is so many more elements that are involved. So it's good to hear that one trustees intends to delve into the many details to assure that dollars aren't wasted.

Al Berggren from OAK PARK  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 10:42 AM

$1.5M to resurface Lake St, $1.86M for water & sewer and $10.2M. That's 25% for necessities and 75% for fluff. This must be Oak Park. C'mon.

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