Forest Park officials took a small step toward improving the environment at Monday’s village council meeting, voting 3-1 to apply for an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant to erect two covered bicycle shelters.
Commissioner Dan Novak voted against the grant application, citing its cost, and Commissioner Rachell Entler was absent.
Estimated cost of the project is $191,100, of which $152,880 would be covered by the grant. The village would pay the remaining $38,220.
The project, which would create approximately 50 sheltered bicycle spaces, calls for shelters to be placed near the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line stations at the Forest Park Transit Center, Desplaines Avenue and Van Buren Street, and at Harlem Avenue and Harrison Street. A concrete bench would be installed at each location.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian explained that there is “nothing like it” at the Transit Center. There are some bicycle racks but they “are an old design and certainly not covered,” he added.
“We want to put out tools for people to use alternative forms of transportation and hope they take advantage of it,” Gillian said.
In the grant application, village officials said the project would encourage more people to bike to the CTA stations and continue their trips via public transit instead of driving to reach the same destinations, thereby reducing vehicle traffic and helping the environment.
The project supports the Forest Park Active Transportation Plan to address the need for multimodal transportation. Expanding bicycle parking is one of the plan’s recommendations as part of the overall strategy to encourage more walking and bicycling. The plan recommends improvements that make it safer and more convenient for people to walk, bike and use transit in Forest Park and specifically identifies bicycle parking as a needed amenity at key destinations.
Village officials also said the shelters would benefit users of the Illinois Prairie Path, which extends into Forest Park close to the Transit Center, allowing them to park their bikes and use the CTA train or any of the eight Pace bus routes that stop at the Transit Center. In turn, the Illinois Prairie Path Board of Directors is backing Forest Park’s grant application with a letter of support to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
“New bicycle shelters will encourage more people to bike to the CTA Blue Line Forest Park Transit Center where bicyclists will be able to connect to the CTA Blue Line trains and Pace buses,” Erik Spande, president of the Prairie Path Board, said in the letter. “We need more facilities like these bike shelters to provide more connections between destinations, including the Illinois Prairie Path, transit stations, commercial districts and parks and to encourage more cycling.”
A similar letter came from the Active Transportation Alliance, a Chicago-based nonprofit advocacy organization that works with communities throughout the Chicago area to increase safety and access for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users. In 2012, the alliance assisted the village in developing the Active Transportation Plan.
“New bicycle shelters will encourage more people to bike to the CTA Blue Line Forest Park Transit Center and the CTA Harlem Avenue Blue Line station and Pace buses,” Heather Schady, senior transportation planner, said in the letter, calling the project “a welcome addition to the community.”
She also noted the Active Transportation Plan recommended installing bike shelters at the two Blue Line stations, a recommendation that “was supported by the hundreds of residents that participated in the development of the plan.”
During the meeting, Novak questioned the $38,220 Forest Park would have to pay should the grant application be approved.
“Are we for sure locked in and have to move forward on this?” he asked. “There’s no way out?”
In response, Mayor Anthony Calderone explained that once a grant application is submitted, the village “makes a commitment” regarding funding.
“My best guess is we have the dollars in our budget,” he said. “But if we get the grant and want to back out, we would be able to.”
After the meeting, Novak said his negative vote was based strictly on dollars and cents and noted he is not against bicyclists or bicycle shelters.
“There are lots of people applying for the same pot of money,” said Gillian, noting that he was told the state will take 4-5 months to review applications and does not expect a decision to be made until 2017.
Chickens home to roost?
During the public comment section of the meeting, two Forest Park residents asked the village council to allow chickens in backyards. Commissioner Tom Mannix said later he’s been looking into the matter.