The much-anticipated and long-awaited Roosevelt Road streetscape project will begin with a groundbreaking ceremony at 9 a.m., Thursday, March 23 at the village parking lot at Roosevelt and Circle Avenue.

Construction workers will already be at work on the $4.75 million project by then with crews from Alliance Contractors scheduled to start this Monday. The company is familiar to Forest Park officials, having resurfaced Madison Street last summer.

Forest Park officials gave residents the opportunity for a sneak peek at the project, hosting an open house, Monday, prior to the village council meeting but attendance was sparse, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian, who estimated “10 or so” residents attended. Jim Amelio of Christopher Burke Engineering, the village engineer, said response from those who attended was “generally positive” with most people “excited.”

The project, which is expected to last into October, will be completed in three stages although the first stage has been divided. Stage 1A of the project, scheduled for March through May, will address the south sidewalk and lane and Stage 1B, scheduled for June and July, will address the north sidewalk and lane. Stage 2 will address the center median in August and September and the final stage will be resurfacing in October.

Weekly on-site meetings are scheduled and e-mail notifications will be sent to those requesting them.

“We want to do as much as we can for the businesses and residents,” Amelio explained.

The project will include pavement resurfacing between Harlem and Desplaines avenues; raised landscaped median islands; decorative crosswalks at Lathrop and Circle avenues; site furniture; sidewalks with a brick paver ribbon; and replacement of all street lighting with decorative street lighting.

The cost will be covered by $2.46 million from the tax increment financing (TIF) fund and a $2.29 million grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

During the council meeting, when officials were addressing two agenda items relating to Burke Engineering and the project, Commissioner Tom Mannix expressed enthusiasm for the project.

“How exciting is it that we’re getting this now?” he said, to which Mayor Anthony Calderone responded, “I’m sure we all agree wholeheartedly.”

Later in the meeting, Calderone invited all to the groundbreaking ceremony for the “long-needed and long-awaited” project.

He commended “all elected officials” for their efforts in “making the project move forward,” noting the village council members are sometimes criticized for only paying attention to Madison Street.

“This proves that’s not true,” he added.

Calderone also stressed the importance of grant funding in general and the $2.29 million IDOT grant for this project in particular.

“We couldn’t do this project without that grant,” he said, noting that grants are “very important to villages like ours.”

Calderone promised the project would be followed by a comprehensive economic development effort on Roosevelt Road. 

“We’re going to be making a splash,” he said.

Gillian termed it an “intense project,” adding, “With the traffic, it’s going to be a complicated process.”

“This summer it’s going to be a mess,” Calderone said, “but to make progress you’ve got to take a step back.”

Calderone previously called the project “a dream for 17 years,” which started to become a reality three or four years ago. He credited former Gov. Pat Quinn with providing the grant funds, noting he personally lobbied Quinn for the funds.

Village officials had to address a last-minute hiccup that could have jeopardized the project.

When doing the engineering preparation work for the project, IDOT officials discovered that the right turn lanes from Roosevelt into Portillo’s and the mall east of Desplaines were not public property. They and the sidewalks were owned by Living Word Ministries, which owns the Forest Park mall, and apparently were never transferred, going back to the time when the property was owned by the federal government. Because IDOT cannot legally do work on private property, the project could have faced changes or discontinuation.

However, when village officials brought the dilemma to the attention of Rev. Bill Winston of Living Word Ministries, the land was donated.

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