The villages of Forest Park and River Forest received some exciting news today: they'll get $1.3 million in federal money to improve Madison Street on the west side of Des Plaines Avenue.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced today on their website that a $1.3 million grant was awarded to Forest Park as part of a $50 million investment in local transportation improvement projects. The investment will fund a total of 54 community projects—including walking trails, bike lanes and general street beautification—and will support more than 400 jobs, according to a press release from Governor Pat Quinn and Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider.
Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said today that the village was thrilled to learn it had received the grant. The village has applied for such grants several times in recent years, Gillian said, but their application was denied. Gillian resubmitted their application last year and learned today they were approved via the IDOT website. The village has not yet received official confirmation though.
Gillian said the village will use the funds to extend pedestrian and beautification improvements that have occurred in recent years on Madison Street on the east side of Des Plaines. Funds will be used to add new lights, pave streets and create more pedestrian crosswalks and other traffic calming devices on Madison Street's west side. The village hopes to create a more uniform look.
"We know that the work we've done on the east side of Des Plaines has been good for pedestrians and economically for the village," Gillian said. "We hope this will improve foot traffic on the west side [of Des Plaines] and provide more visibility to the businesses there."
Gillian said that the work done on the west side of Madison Street will be the same visually as the east side and will, in a sense, remove the mental barrier that exists there.
"At least visually, that dividing line won’t exist anymore," Gillian said.
Eric Palm, village administrator in River Forest, was similarly pleased to learn that the application for funds were approved. Madison Street is split between the two villages by the center line between Des Plaines and Park Avenue.
"Forest Park really did all the heavy lifting on this one," Palm said. "We're riding their coat tails a bit, but we're really excited about it."
Both villages will be required to put in some of their own funds toward the project. According to Palm, the amount of local investment is $492,640, which will be split 50-50 between both Forest Park and River Forest.
"That's a really good return on investment," Palm said.
Palm added that he believed that similar improvements on the east end Madison Street have been very good for Forest Park and, "certainly can do nothing but help out," businesses on the west side of Des Plaines.
Both administrators said the details of how the various projects will be put to bid and payment between the two towns will still need to be worked out.
Gillian said that he expects Forest Park will begin working on the bid process sometime later this year, possibly in the summer or fall. Major construction work will likely begin in the spring of 2014.
"Anytime two communities can work together on something like this, it's a bonus," Gillian said. "What's good for us is also good for them, and it will be good for businesses in both [villages]."
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