Elmwood Park flood relief project work starts next month
Heavy rains in July 2011 caused flooding in Elmwood Park, including this stretch of Oakleaf Avenue. | Photos courtesy of Ted Gruber
Updated: April 15, 2013 10:19AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Village residents — especially on the northwest side of town — have dealt with flooding for years, but relief is on the way.
The Elmwood Park Village Board voted March 4 to begin construction on the first pieces of an ongoing $20 million, two-year Flood Mitigation Project. A major portion is set to start in mid-April.
In July 2011, heavy rains flooded homes and basements. Water filled some streets, stalling moving cars.
In the wake of that disaster, angry and frustrated residents filled village board meetings, demanding solutions.
Elmwood Park Village Manager Paul Volpe said flooding problems should be corrected by the project, which will begin on 80th Avenue between Fletcher and Westwood Avenues.
The $2.6 million project calls for new stormwater pipes underground along 80th Avenue; the pipes range from 42 to 84 inches in diameter.
Volpe said that area currently has a combined sewer system in which stormwater and wastewater flow through the same pipes. Adding new pipes strictly for stormwater would help alleviate flooding.
But to get the job done, residents must deal with some inconvenience.
“There will be construction for most of the summer,” Volpe said. “Traffic will have to be rerouted for most of the summer.”
Gale Gilley, 71, has lived at 7941 W. Cressett Drive since 1970. His basement has flooded several times. He and his neighbors have often referred to their street as “Lake Cressett” because of the heavy flooding.
Gilley said he doesn’t mind the inconvenience of construction as long as it solves the problem.
“We’ve had some terrible floods here. It really gets bad here. It’s worse by 80th,” Gilley said.
“I’m willing to deal with it (construction),” he added. “My car is in the garage. I can’t live with that water. When it rains you’re afraid to leave your house.”
In the second phase in 2014, stormwater pipes will be installed in several of the streets that run west into 80th Avenue.
At that same meeting March 4, the village board authorized the village clerk to advertise for bids for the construction of an underground pumping station, which would be built on the grounds of Oak Park Country Club in Elmwood Park.
Volpe said the pumping station will cost about $4 million and hopes the village can award the project at the March 18 village board meeting. If so, construction should start in mid-April as well.
Volpe said once complete, the pumping station would collect the water from the new storm sewers and pump the water into the Des Plaines River.
The board is also advertising for bids for the construction of an underground detention basin to be built at Oak Park Country Club as well as well as new storm sewers in south Elmwood Park. The project will cost about $6 million and construction should start in May.
Elmwood Park Trustee Carmen Forte, who owns a plumbing business in the village, said this is a move in the right direction.
“This is a problem that has plagued this town for years and we are the first administration to address it,” he said. “This will change the face of this town for many, many years to come.”
While some welcome the new construction and potential flood relief, others remain pessimistic.
William Gillhaus, 71, who moved into his home at 7925 Cressett Drive in 1972 said flood after flood they’ve been promised a solution, but it has never come. “They haven’t done anything in 40 years and they are not going to do anything now.”
Elmwood Park Village President Peter Silvestri said like any major project in the village, it took time — but it will be accomplished.
“Twenty-four years ago there was no pool and there was no library, but now we have it,” he said. “You can only tax people so much.”
The total mitigation project will cost about $20 million. It will be funded with mostly with bonds, but about $5 million will come from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Silvestri said they will not have to raise taxes to pay for the project and water rates were not raised this year.
“This is going to improve the quality of life for some people and will positively impact the quality of life for everyone,” he said.
Volpe said residents in the affected areas will be notified before construction starts. For details, residents can contact the village at 708-452-3914.