The year-long Phase 1 of the Forest Park Village Improvement Plan (VIP) is scheduled to begin in early September and should prove to be one of the most significant public improvement projects that the village has ever seen.

Contractor bids for the project were due 11 a.m. on July 26, and have been turned over to Christopher Burke engineering to be qualified and evaluated.

Phase 1 will cost $5,902,226 and will focus primarily on street and alley improvements. The VIP was made possible by the sales tax referendum passed recently, which raised retail sales tax by 0.5%.

“Because of the financial pressures on the village, monies appropriated to (street and alley repairs) ended up being used to meet general obligations in the past ” salaries, keeping the lights on,” said Commissioner Patrick Doolin, who is overseeing the project with input from other elected officials.

The new stream of revenue from the increased sales tax has been earmarked exclusively for improvements to public infrastructure.

Doolin said that an extensive evaluation of the village’s current streets and alleys was completed, rating them from excellent to poor. “Our goal is to fix every one rated ‘poor’ by the end of this project,” he said.

Phase 1 of the VIP consists of eight street reconstructions or repavements and 19 alley reconstructions. Repaving a street involves taking off the asphalt and putting a new layer down; reconstruction of a street or alley involves taking up the entire foundation and rebuilding it.

Doolin said the VIP will also address some water main issues and traffic calming devices where there have been issues with high rates of speed in residential areas, though these plans have not yet been officially presented to the village council.

Traffic calming devices include larger bump-outs at intersections, which prevent hazards to pedestrians by preventing cars from pulling up to make right-hand turns on streets that are only meant for one lane of traffic.

The new bump-outs will taper the curbs out, forcing cars to slow down to get through that space, and cutting down the distance that pedestrians have to walk across the street from 28 feet of pavement to about16 feet.

Commissioner Mark Hosty said he had not received any information regarding potential traffic calming devices, but said that there is a tour scheduled next week for commissioners to look at examples of traffic calming devices in other communities.

Doolin also hopes that the VIP will provide for some aesthetic improvements, including stamped concrete crosswalks at major intersections like Circle Avenue and Harvard Street and Circle Avenue and Jackson Boulevard.

He emphasized the intention to improve as many parts of the village as possible, not just Madison Street.

Preconstruction meetings for Phase 1 began August 1, and construction is scheduled to run from Sept. 2005 to Aug. 2006, when Phase 2 will begin with a similar timetable. The entire VIP should be done sometime in the summer of 2007.

The estimated cost of the entire project is between $10-11 million.

“As far as inconveniences ” certainly a $10 million improvement project is going to create some inconveniences for residents, but it’s our intention to communicate with the public,” Doolin said. “And I think people will put up with a little inconvenience for that.”

For example, residents whose alleys are being replaced will not have access to their garages for a 30-45 day period of time.

“If you can put up with the construction time, you’re going to get a nice new alley that doesn’t flood,” Doolin said. “And I think people will put up with a little inconvenience for that.”

Commissioner Hosty, who inherited the Madison Street improvement project halfway through, noted that it required a lot of hands-on work because there was no project manager.

“When we did the water project, we hired one and it was a much smoother project. I know that there isn’t a project manager for (the VIP) ” I just hope it goes smoothly,” Hosty said.