Village pumps brakes on road projects

The village is downshifting its slate of 2020 road improvements amidst the economic uncertainty caused by coronavirus restrictions. But two of the most significant projects will proceed.

At Tuesday night’s village board meeting, conducted via teleconference with only Village President Tom Cauley in the meeting room, Cauley said this year’s master infrastructure plan would be scaled back.

“We’ve decided to defer all capital projects that can be deferred to conserve cash,” he said.

But trustees held first readings on awarding bids for two projects: East Chicago Avenue flood mitigation and Chicago Avenue water main improvements.

The work in the East Chicago corridor will be paid for almost entirely by the Illinois Tollway, which is covering $2.1 million of the roughly $2.2 million cost. The project to separate a combined sewer into storm water and sanitary sewers and bury a storm water detention vault under the Highland train station parking lot is aimed at easing flooding in Veeck Park and the surrounding area, including the Tri-State Tollway currently being expanded.

“This is why the Tollway is paying for almost all of this project,” said Trustee Neale Byrnes, who oversees environmental and public services matters. “Having the Tollway funding most of this is a huge, huge benefit to the village.”

The village’s contribution will be $115,000.

Improvements to the Chicago Avenue water mains consist of replacing 97-year-old, 12-inch water mains that supply water to residents west and south of the water plant. One of the mains runs beneath the BNSF railroad.

“A break of this main ... would be catastrophic to the residents south of the tracks. It would be catastrophic to the BNSF line,” Byrnes said.

A bid for $998,662 from John Neri Construction was the lowest bid.

Cauley said he was initially resistant to doing the project this year. He changed his mind when he learned that next year’s scheduled repaving of Chicago Avenue would then have to be deferred as well — and the village could miss out on a $500,000 grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to offset the cost.

“If we can’t do the street, we may lose the $500,000 grant,” he said. “The grant is almost half the cost of this water main.”

Cauley reported that the village had reserve funds of $8.2 million at the end of last year, equivalent to nearly 40 percent of the 2020 budget for operating and capital expenses.

“At the end of 2019, we had $19.2 million in cash and other investments on hand, and that’s enough to keep the village operating and it’s enough to compete the parking deck,” he stated, referring to the downtown project due to be completed in June.

Both bids are expected to be on the board’s May 5 agenda for approval.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean