More than a mile of bumpy, pocked paving on Desplaines Avenue will be replaced this summer and much of the work will be paid for with federal money.
The roadway belongs to the state, and Illinois is planning to repave some 6,800 feet between Roosevelt and Randolph streets, according to paperwork submitted to the village. Only a small portion of the estimated $1.7 million project will be the responsibility of the municipality.
During a March 23 council meeting, members voted to contribute $17,250 toward the repaving. That figure is all that Forest Park is responsible for, and covers its portion of the cost of resurfacing the affected parking lanes.
Council members also formalized parking restrictions along the roadway.
“We’re not taking away any parking on Desplaines Avenue,” Mayor Anthony Calderone said.
A local ordinance acknowledges that the Illinois Department of Transportation allows for parallel parking on Desplaines, but gives the municipality the right to restrict parking when directed to do so by the state. Illinois transportation officials simply wanted documentation from Forest Park that makes that relationship clear, said Calderone.
Though the road is owned by the state, maintenance is left to the municipality. According to Commissioner Marty Tellalian, public works crews from Forest Park are responsible for keeping Desplaines clear in the winter. Filling potholes and other such work also falls to the village. Those costs are initially covered with local funds and then reimbursed by the state.
“State ownership really just relates to compensation,” Tellalian, one of two commissioners who oversees the public works department, said.
Desplaines is one of several crumbling streets in Forest Park that drivers have had to contend with in recent years. The last two winter seasons, with their pattern of freezing and thawing temperatures, have only exacerbated the problem of potholes and frost heaves. Efforts to patch particularly craterous spots also stretched the local budget, according to village officials.
“It’s one of our main north-south corridors,” Tellalian said of the road’s importance to the community.
A handful of other paving projects are slated to be completed in 2009, but funding for those efforts has become an issue. The recession is partly to blame, Forest Park officials have said, because tax revenues have taken a hit. Two massive rebuilding projects on Harvard and Jackson streets were also fast-tracked so the village could take advantage of federal grants, but the accelerated timeline didn’t give local fund balances an opportunity to mature, the village has said.
As a result, discretionary spending in all departments has been slashed and council members are scrambling to shift what little fund balances exist to cover construction costs.
Of the nine public improvement projects slated for 2009, however, the resurfacing of Desplaines Avenue represents the least expensive item for the village by far, according to cost estimates provided in February.
Just as the recession is forcing local government to cut back, contractors are struggling to find work and have been forced to reduce their prices. Finance Director Judy Kovacs said project estimates on several fronts have been less than initially expected, which obviously helps the village’s bottom line.
In February, Kovacs estimated the village needs to come up with more than $2.26 million if it expects to complete all nine of the infrastructure projects on the docket.