Forest Park voters approved a .5 percent sales tax increase in March 2014 with the additional revenue targeted for infrastructure improvements. As reported by the Review at the time, the statute allows the funds to be used for “Municipal roads and streets, access roads, bridges, and sidewalks; waste disposal systems; and water and sewer line extensions, water distribution and purification facilities, storm water drainage and retention facilities, and sewage treatment facilities.” This year, voters will begin to see the fruits of that taxation, including more “green” alleys.

Soon after the referendum passed, the village, along with its engineering contractor, Christopher Burke Engineering, announced a five-year plan for village infrastructure improvements. As reported, the 2015 plans included work on the “Madison Street streetscape west of Desplaines Avenue and water main replacements, three alleys and more sidewalks with the 50/50 program.” At the time, the village announced the plan would be funded by the “$1 million predicted annually from the new sales tax, as well as funds from the VIP fund, the water fund, grants and TIF districts.”

The village will begin executing those plans in the coming weeks. At its May 26 meeting, the village council unanimously authorized the advertisement of bids for the 2015 Alley Improvement Program.

In February 2015, the village submitted an application to the Community Development Block Grants program (CDBG), administered through Cook County, in order to help fund the improvements. According to its website, the CDBG is a “flexible program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs.” However, James Amelio, a project manager at Burke, notes that communities must wait until late July before receiving notification about funding awards.

Although the plan originally included three alley replacements, according to Amelio, “We have five alleys planned for this year and depending on how the pricing comes in when we select bids, we may or may not be able to do all five of them.”

The five alleys are the 400 block of Elgin/Marengo, the 800 and 900 block of Elgin/Harlem, the 1000 block of Beloit/Ferdinand and the 1000 block of Thomas/Beloit. The village targeted these alleys for improvement after an analysis, in cooperation with Burke Engineering, conducted a few years ago. Since then, they have been “addressing the worst ones in order” said Amelio.

Green technology

The village intends to implement new “green” technology in all its alleys moving forward. 

“The concrete itself is the exact same as all the other alleys we have done. The only difference is that we will be putting perforated catch basins in the inlets which offer water the opportunity to sink into the ground,” Amelio explained.

This is not the first time Forest Park has installed “green” alleyways. However, previous alleys included a “permeable paver ribbon right down the middle of the alley” and were more expensive to install,” Amelio said. For the 2015 program, the village opted for a more “cost-effective” design.

After mentioning that the technology is now “reasonably priced,” he said, “It makes sense to do this. It will also help to alleviate some of the flooding issues. … It will be a good improvement for the village on the whole doing it this way, moving forward.”