A plan to make sidewalks and other Forest Park public rights of way compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act was unanimously approved by the village council June 27.
The plan, which is labeled as a transition, is substantially identical to what the village released for review on Feb. 14. It calls for the village to do an inventory of all the obstacles to accessibility and use that information when planning street repair and improvement projects. It also calls for Forest Park to check any private development proposals to make sure they fit ADA requirements. Many of the improvements would be done as part of regular maintenance, while larger projects will be done based on funding availability.
While the ADA requires all municipalities to develop a Transition Plan for Public Rights of Way, there haven’t been many penalties for not following through on this long-time provision. According to a 2020 study by the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council, in the 30 years since ADA passed in 1990, only 11% of Chicago area municipalities adopted the plan. But the federal government is expected to make passing a plan a requirement for receiving federal funding, which prompted Forest Park to develop one.
Forest Parkers had the opportunity to comment on the plan between mid-February and the end of May, with the village advertising the plans in its weekly online newsletter. Village Administrator Moses Amidei, who also serves as Forest Park’s ADA coordinator, confirmed to the Review that the few changes the plan made were strictly grammatical. But he noted that he shared the earlier draft of the plan with Forest Park’s Progress Center for Independent Living and made some changes based on the feedback he received before releasing the draft the public got to see. And he told the council on June 27 that, in May, he held an additional meeting with the Progress Center over Zoom to review the amended plan.
The plan introduction notes that Forest Park adheres to ADA when doing road improvement projects – but this means accessibility can vary quite a bit depending on what got repaired or rehabbed in the last 31 years. The plan calls for the village to look at all of its streets and catalogue barriers to accessibility. This can include fire hydrants obstructing the way, lack of street median refuge islands at crossings of major streets, gaps in sidewalks and issues with sidewalk and driveway slopes. The village will then develop a list of priorities.
The plan notes that some of the biggest issues happen on state-owned roads. Any improvements there would need to be approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The village will incorporate the aforementioned findings into its regular street maintenance plans and 5-year capital plans. It will put particular priority on bringing sidewalk ramps at intersections into compliance. When a private developer brings their plans to the village, Forest Park will check to see whether the development meet ADA requirements. The plan does include a caveat that larger-scale street improvement projects would hinge on funding availability.
Amidei previously told the council that much of what’s in the plan is something the village already does – this would simply set it down on paper as an official policy. He said some of the major priorities would include Circle Avenue and Harrison Street improvements.
During the June 27 meeting, Amidei said he appreciated the feedback he got from the Progress Center.
Commissioner Jessica Voogd said she appreciated how the village administrator handled the outreach.
“I just wanted to thank Administrator Amidei for all his work on this project so far,” she said. “He’s been really proactive about reaching out to the public and soliciting feedback on this policy. I just wanted to commend him and acknowledge his hard work on it.”