Hell hath a name: Harlem construction
Drivers can expect the bottleneck at Harlem and South Boulevard to move even slower when an Illinois Department of Transportation roadway resurfacing project reaches Oak Park in May or early June. | Bill Dwyer~Sun-Times Media
Which north-south route will you take to avoid Harlem Ave.?
Updated: September 21, 2012 1:43PM
Like taxes and dental work, street repairs are a painful fact of life.
Soon Harlem Avenue, an already slow-moving bottleneck through many west suburbs, will see even more backups and traffic delays as resurfacing work begins this week on all four lanes from 26th Street in North Riverside to Collum Street near Norridge.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), which maintains Harlem Avenue, will be scrapping off the top several inches of asphalt roadway and laying down new asphalt.
The resurfacing of six miles of Harlem, a major state arterial thoroughfare also known as State Route 43, is the first major roadwork since 1996. The work was set to begin Monday at 26th Street on Harlem between Berwyn and North Riverside. It is scheduled to be complete by Aug. 31.
On Monday afternoon workers were doing “soft cuts” into the roadbed north of the Eisenhower Expressway in preparation for sub-roadbed patching prior to the resurfacing.
Further north between Ontario Street and Greenfield Street the village was finishing minor sewer repairs on Harlem.
Bill McKenna, the acting village engineer for the Oak Park Public Works Department, said Oak Park started eight limited sewer section repairs April 12, ahead of the IDOT roadwork.
Neither McKenna nor River Forest Public Works Director Phil Cotter have received a final timetable from IDOT.
“They’re still working on the details,” said McKenna, who said IDOT is currently holding coordinating meetings with the project contractor, K-Five Construction.
Whatever the eventual start date, Oak Park and River Forest won’t be affected immediately.
“They won’t be in or near River Forest anytime soon,” said Cotter. “Not until May or maybe June.”
Both officials said the villages will get at least a week, maybe two or three weeks’ notice.
IDOT engineer Orrin James, who is overseeing the resurfacing project, said the work would most likely be done in three or four sections moving from the south northward.
“We haven’t come up with the actual sectional organization yet,” James said on April 12. “But it can only be done in phases.”
Doing the entire six-mile length all at once, James said, “would completely disrupt traffic.”
Those sections, James said, would likely be from 26th to Roosevelt Road or I-290, then north to the Green Line viaduct or Lake Street, then north to North Avenue.
A final section between Belmont Avenue north to Collum Street in Norridge is also being scheduled.
McKenna and Cotter have met with IDOT officials since March and will continue to confer on a weekly basis throughout the resurfacing project. Both men said they would be releasing information to the public as it became available.
“We will have staff keeping an eye on the project to anticipate any issues on the Oak Park side,” said McKenna.
James said IDOT will also be doing deeper work on a limited basis where needed on the concrete roadway bed, as far down as 10 inches.
James said IDOT is hoping to get permission to work at night in order to expedite the project. That permission is up to local municipalities to grant.
“We’re in the process of seeing if we can do night work,” said James. “If we could get some of the work done at night, (the resurfacing) could be completed before Aug. 31.”
That appears to be unlikely, however. McKenna said Oak Park village ordinance prohibits any such night work along residential neighborhoods.
“It can be a noisy operation,” said Cotter, who said River Forest hasn’t received a request yet to work at night.
McKenna said Oak Park has received a request from IDOT to do some of the resurfacing work at night.
“I received a request, as did the (interim) village manager,” said McKenna. “We’ll restrict any nighttime work. Our village code has requirements for work hours after 6 p.m.”
Still open to question is possible night work on Harlem between Roosevelt Road and the Eisenhower Expressway. That four block long section in Oak Park borders Maple Park and a block-long commercial district. The west side of the street in Forest Park, however, is largely residential.
“That all depends on the answer from Forest Park,” said McKenna.
Forest Park Village Administrator Tim Gillian said Friday that he had not yet been contacted by IDOT officials with any requests.
Traffic and the diverting of traffic is among the top concern for local officials.
“I’ve advised the police and fire departments and all village officials that the resurfacing could result in additional cut-through traffic in and around River Forest,” said Cotter.
“I’ve notified police and fire to look for alternate routes,” said McKenna. “They’re aware of it.”