Forest Park has emerged steadily, with inevitable bumps, from a generation or more when it basically was unable to figure out how to fund infrastructure fixes to our widely obsolete sewers and streets. Nor was it able to invest much in more forward-looking upgrades such as permeable-paver parking lots or bike infrastructure.
Last week the village council reviewed an ambitious construction season for Forest Park. Penciling in at $6.46 million, the plan, prepared by the village’s contracted engineering firm, invests in further sewer upgrades and more essential separation of water and sewer lines.
As we tilt toward spring, the flooding season for those along the Des Plaines River, we all rightly worry about the possibility of homes being inundated due to a century-plus years old sewer system that is both worn out and inadequate to the repeated “storms of the century” which climate change has made regular events.
But finally, there is slow but steady headway on that unglamorous but vital sewer investment.
The 2023 plan also includes affirming investments that residents will actively enjoy.
Planned spending on a “multi-use path” – needs a better name – along Van Buren and adjacent to the Altenheim property will further connect walkers, runners and bikers to the Prairie Path and the Des Plaines River Trail. There will also be the addition of bicycle parking for commuters heading to the Blue Line at both Harlem and the Desplaines terminus.
Also impressive is the blending of funding sources for these projects. Forest Park keeps getting better at tapping what are currently generous federal, state and county funders for infrastructure.
And the village itself through the combination of the 1% sales tax voters approved for infrastructure and dollars pulled out of TIF funds now has on ongoing source of funds to invest. And just wait until cannabis taxes begin to roll in.
The village will also begin planning for how to fund the state-mandated replacement of all the lead water service lines in town. The initial plan is due to the state next year. The replacement process will stretch over many years but steady and expensive progress will need to be made each year.
This replacement plan covers all of Illinois. It is crucial to the health of our public water systems. But it is going to be a monster project.