Village administrators met this month with their counterparts from Oak Park and River Forest to iron out details of their participation in a federal grant for engineering work on the elevated viaduct at Harlem Avenue and North Boulevard.
The $800,000 federal grant, which was secured for the villages through Congressman Danny Davis’ (D-7th) office, requires a combined 20 percent match in funding from the three villages.
River Forest Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez said Oak Park will provide 50 percent of that funding, up to $91,000. River Forest and Forest Park will chip in 25 percent each, up to $45,500.
“The final numbers will be driven by the engineering’s contracted cost,” said Gutierrez. “We’re refining that right now.”
Final agreement is expected within the next three to four weeks. Work is expected to begin in early 2008.
Mike Sturino, village administrator for Forest Park, said he would expect the $45,500 could easily be afforded if it’s drawn from the Brown Avenue tax increment financing account. TIF districts, as they’re called, are generally created as a way to finance capital improvement projects within the district’s borders. Taxes collected within a district that would otherwise be spent as part of the municipal budget are instead put into a reserve fund.
The grant money will be spent on the first phase of a three phase project that’s expected to rebuild the viaduct as a modern “clear span” bridge. That configuration will allow for an additional fifth lane of traffic on Harlem Avenue under the bridge.
Equally significant, it will remove the presence of the existing center support pier in the middle of Harlem, which officials have acknowledged as a safety concern.
“It will span from abutment to abutment,” said Greg Kramer, River Forest’s Director of Public Works.
The engineering study will be conducted by the firm of H.W. Lockner, which handled an $80,000 feasibility study in 2005 to determine realistic options for the viaduct. The study is expected to take about two years and involve numerous transportation agencies.
“They’ll assess traffic, study signal issues, viaduct structure, and interactions with the CTA, Metra, and the Union Pacific Railroad (which owns the bridge and tracks),” said Kramer.
PACE, which utilizes Harlem Avenue, will also be involved.
Gutierrez said funding for phases two and three is not guaranteed.