Despite the fact that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) project on Roosevelt Road was completed in October 2017, almost two years ago, serious issues with cracking asphalt have still not been fixed, and it’s unclear who will take responsibility or when the road will be repaired.
Forest Park’s village government, though, continues to press its demands that IDOT remedy flaws in a project it managed and heavily subsidized. Village Manager Tim Gillian, Mayor Rory Hoskins and newly contracted lobbyist Michael Axelrod are triple teaming the state agency looking for resolution.
The $4.7 million improvement plan to enhance the look and feel of Roosevelt Road from Harlem Avenue to Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park was a joint effort between the IDOT, which contributed $2.3 million, and the village government, which paid $2.4 million from the Roosevelt Road TIF and other village funds.
The project included plans to beautify the area with landscaped planters, parkway trees, benches and ornamental lighting. But one of the most important parts of the venture, pavement resurfacing on Roosevelt Road, showed defects almost immediately after completion.
Because Roosevelt Road is a state route, the road repair was largely managed by IDOT, which hired Alliance, a general contractor based in suburban Woodstock. Alliance, in turn, subcontracted Schroeder Asphalt to pave the road.
Gillian said that “almost right away” he and village engineers noticed and documented potholing and cracking in the pavement. This cracking is known as raveling, a condition in which the asphalt deteriorates as stones work their way out of it, causing defects in the road.
Raveling can be caused by several things but is usually the result of one of two factors. First, there can be a problem with the asphalt mix itself, which needs to be the perfect combination of emulsion, sand and stones. If the mix design is wrong, there will be problems with the road surface after it is applied. The other common cause is in how the mix is applied or rolled on the surface of the street; nuclear density testing tells the engineers how many times the mix, or mat as it is called after it is laid down, should be rolled. Both the asphalt composition and the rolling of the mat require testing, and Gillian says that Forest Park hired an independent nuclear density tester, a private firm, to make sure the mat was rolled the correct number of times. Forest Park also adhered to everything else in the contract that was the village’s responsibility, said Gillian.
According to Gillian, over a period of several months after completion of the project, IDOT did testing on the broken pavement. It was determined that the pavement did not meet compaction requirements, and IDOT representatives agreed there was an issue. Discussions at that point focused on a complete resurfacing of the street at IDOT’s expense, the outcome Gillian and the village’s engineering firm have desired and championed from the beginning.
However, according to the village, once IDOT realized how high the cost of total resurfacing would be, it backed off and began discussing “remedial options” such as patching.
There has been “lots of back and forth” between IDOT and Forest Park, say village officials. But no written agreement has been reached. Gillian says that “on two instances we were told IDOT would fix it,” but both times IDOT backed off from these verbal agreements.
According to village officials, the most recent verbal agreement was made in the fall of 2018, almost a year ago. IDOT agreed to patch the most damaged parts of the road. Forest Park submitted a change order, but it has not yet been approved by IDOT, despite the village following up “every few weeks” with them.
Gillian is currently waiting for the approved change order from Springfield, in which IDOT will officially and in writing either agree or refuse to help in remedying the problem, as well as specify exactly what type and monetary amount of assistance it will provide, if any.
But Gillian isn’t satisfied. He says the whole situation doesn’t pass the “make sense test.” Why, for example, is IDOT refusing to go after the contractor who did the work? Officials say that although IDOT has discussed the situation with the contractor, they have not aggressively pursued remediation. Why isn’t IDOT more concerned about their $2.3 million investment in one of their state roads? Why is the Village of Forest Park being “stonewalled”? Something’s missing, and Gillian wants to know what it is.
The village should have an answer within the next few weeks, and Gillian is determined to keep reaching out to IDOT until they have a definite answer. Hoskins plans to discuss with Gillian whether Forest Park’s new lobbyist Michael Axelrod can assist in the matter. Axelrod’s contact was approved by the village board on Aug. 12. He is the son of David Axelrod, President Barack Obama’s former chief strategist and senior advisor who according to Hoskins, has “strong relationships in the state government.”
Neither IDOT nor Schroeder Asphalt responded to inquiries from the Review before press time.