Forest Park officials have announced plans to follow last year’s construction project on the west half of Madison Street with a similar project on the east half of the street this summer.
However, they are quick to point out this year’s project will cause less disruption due to its smaller scope.
The village council took another step in the multi-phase process at Monday’s meeting, authorizing appropriation of $200,000 in motor fuel tax dollars to cover the village’s portion of the project’s cost. The remainder of the estimated $1 million project cost will be covered by an $800,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Despite ongoing financial issues in Illinois state government, Mayor Anthony Calderone said the grant money is secured.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said bids were solicited and a contractor has been selected. Village officials are in the process of finalizing the contract, which they expect will occur “any day.”
Gillian said this year’s project will be “nowhere near” the scope of last year’s, adding, “Hopefully this year’s project will go more quickly.”
This year’s street work, from Desplaines to Harlem avenues, will involve updating landscaping and grinding and resurfacing the street, whereas last year’s project involved replacing the street down to the base, plus water main work.
The project will include what Gillian termed “spot curb repairs.”
Calderone noted, “Most of the curbs and sidewalks are in good shape but we might have to replace some.” He agreed that the project is less involved, saying he views it “more as maintenance” than reconstruction.
“Madison Street certainly has seen wear and tear,” he said. “Asphalt doesn’t last forever.”
Gillian said the project, which will take place during the summer construction season, should take 45-60 days, depending on the weather. Except for two days when the binder and surface coats of asphalt are installed, parking will be maintained on either side of the street.
He said business owners on Madison have been contacted and the village will “give plenty of notice” as the project approaches.
Laurie Kokenes, executive director of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce, said village officials began a dialogue with businesses five months ago.
“The village hosted a meeting in September 2015, working with the chamber to invite businesses to make sure they were informed about the project and had an opportunity to give their input before the village finalized the plans,” she said. “Through conversations I’ve had with a number of Madison Street business owners, and input garnered from the village’s September project presentation meeting, I would say they are definitely in favor of the enhancements that will result from this project.
“Nearly everyone is pleased as punch that the brick planter boxes will be replaced by decorative pots. That, along with the resurfacing and repairs, will go a long way in updating Madison Street.”
Kokenes acknowledged that business owners are concerned about how the project will affect their operations, especially “during the time of year when more shoppers and diners are out and about,” but predicted businesses would work together, which is “one of Forest Park’s merchants’ strong points.”
She said that spirit of cooperation helped businesses affected by last year’s project.
“People stepped up to the plate and offered extra parking if they had it, and businesses thought outside the box,” Kokenes said. “It’s really quite impressive to see that kind of cooperation among the merchants and perhaps even more unusual to have the kind of cooperative and responsive relationship we have with all departments of village hall.”
She said village officials do an “incredible job” of keeping the businesses and the chamber informed.
“From the major Madison Street reconstruction back in 1999 to the most recent project west of Desplaines, the village was informative and responsive,” Kokenes said. “I attended quite a number of the weekly meetings at the job site during this last phase and, despite having limited options, the village addressed the group’s and individual business’ needs whenever possible, going the extra mile to help sustain area businesses throughout the project.”