Following brief discussion at each of the past two meetings, the Forest Park Village Council appears ready to sign onto a proposal to expand and rebuild the Eisenhower Expressway, including the section that passes through the village.

In a letter sent in August, the Illinois Department of Transportation asked Forest Park officials to approve a letter of intent confirming their agreement with the proposed project and accepting responsibility for the village’s share of the cost, estimated to be $354,135. 

At Monday’s council meeting, Commissioner Tom Mannix expressed concern about binding future village officials to the project, especially the financial commitment. However, Nick Peppers, village attorney, assured him the village council is only being asked to indicate concurrence.

“All we’re saying is we’re in agreement with the scope of the project,” he said.

At the Sept. 11 Village Council meeting, Commissioner Joe Byrnes questioned whether participation by the Chicago Transit Authority in the project would reduce the village’s share of the cost. On Monday, he said village officials are still researching the impact of incorporating expansion of the CTA’s Blue Line terminal in Forest Park.

In recommending that the village council approve the letter of intent, Mayor Anthony Calderone noted that IDOT officials have yet to establish a timetable for the project.

“It’s not happening this year or next year,” he said. “We’re not sure when.”

Village Administrator Tim Gillian pointed out the project is not listed on IDOT’s five-year plan, which means 2023 is the soonest it could take place. 

“We’re far away,” he said. “It’s not even designed yet.”   

Calderone indicated a vote is expected at the Tuesday, Oct. 10 village council meeting.

In addition to widening and rebuilding the expressway, the plan calls for managed toll lanes to be installed between Mannheim Road and Racine Avenue. IDOT would install a fourth lane to the expressway in each direction between Mannheim and Austin Boulevard, which would bring the entire expressway to four lanes in each direction between I-88 and I-90/94.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $2.7 billion.

The project includes wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes on Desplaines, Circle and Harlem avenues, where those streets cross the expressway. The southbound right turn lane would be extended at Desplaines and the traffic signals would be improved at Harrison and Circle. At Harlem Avenue, the ramps would be moved to the right and turn lanes would be added.   

The project also would extend the Prairie Path bike trail east into Chicago.

The council Monday also approved five more change orders for the Roosevelt Road streetscape project, increasing the cost of the project by $239,000.

Approval in August of five change orders had increased the cost of the project by $180,000. 

Among the change orders is removal of two underground storage tanks that were discovered during construction. The tanks, which Gillian speculated originally contained heating oil, were leaking, which led to the involvement of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The permitting, testing, removal of the tanks and removal of contaminated soil to meet IEPA requirements cost $26,741.39.

Gillian said the other change orders were due to the increase in quantities of materials needed for completion of the project as well as field conditions encountered during construction.

The other change order costs are $127,571.50 for concrete work along the curb line; $42,290 for additional electrical improvements; $29,279.73 for storm sewer revisions; and $13,300 for installation of additional catch basins.

 Calderone said previously that additional change order costs would not affect the project budget, noting the village is using tax increment financing funds. He also said change order increases are a small percentage of the $4.75 million project cost.

   The much-anticipated and long-awaited project began in March with an original completion date of October. It was unexpectedly delayed for a week in July when the Illinois Department of Transportation shut down all road construction throughout the state after state officials failed to approve a budget before June 30. 

The project includes pavement resurfacing between Harlem and Desplaines, raised landscaped median islands, decorative crosswalks at Lathrop Avenue and Circle, 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 TIF fund and a $2.29 million grant from IDOT.