Oak Park secures $760,000 green infrastructure grant

Village nabs state funding for green alley program

October 24th, 2013 5:35 PM

By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The news of nine new Oak Park alleys being replaced isn't much to talk about. But nine alleys with permeable pavement, purchased through a hefty state grant, is a different story.

As part of a project proposed for the 2014 budget, the village will put up a total of $254,442 for the project that will be paired with an Illinois Green Infrastructure Grant worth $763,327 toward a Green Alley Program that will replace the alleys with new environmentally-friendlier pavements.

The Village of Oak Park's engineering department submitted a grant in December 2012 through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for the construction of these green alleys. The alleys were already scheduled for replacement in the next few years, according to a village memo, but this grant will help bump those improvements up to next year. The village received the full requested grant amount.

The green alley plan aligns with the village's sustainability vision and its being done as a "best management practice" to improve the performance of the village's sewer system. The alleys are also located in areas with anticipated sandy soils to minimize construction costs and maximize permeability, according to a village report.

The project is scheduled to be designed by staff and constructed in the summer of 2014. Village Engineer Jim Budrick gave a brief update about the village's pilot program Monday and said the program has been successful and has helped kept drain holes open and water percolating into the soil.

Trustee Ray Johnson praised the department for securing funds for a project that wouldn't have been fully achievable without grant money.

"Congratulations. That's a significant grant. …Good work and thank you," he told the village engineers at Monday's meeting.

OP public works department is 'fit,' says magazine

According to an October edition of Public Works Magazine, the Village of Oak Park's public works department has worked hard to stay "fit."

"[Oak Park] isn't just home to the world's largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes. It's also where 57 public works employees are setting the bar for environmentally friendly services for 52,000 people just west of Chicago," the article reads.

The short piece highlights Oak Park's electronic materials collection, its annual green expo and the numerous residents that joined the food composting program.

The village's LEED Gold public works fleet services facility and its vehicles that are run on bio-diesel, trucks that use compressed natural gas, along with two hybrid vehicles and one electric vehicle are also mentioned.

The village is credited for the effort of employees like Public Works Director John Wielebnicki, Budrick and others who work for the village who uses bikes to get to meetings, pump stations, construction sites and traffic signals.

In 2008, according to the article, Oak Park employees also repurposed multiple abandoned bicycles the police department had collected and turned them into usable bikes for village employees to use for work-related transportation.

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

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  • Duane Hill from Oak Park

    Posted: October 28th, 2013 10:34 AM

    @Bridget, another option is to provide detention basins at the alleys and streets in the areas where there is more clay. These detention basins would fill during storms and release the storm water slowly after the storm which could also alleviate the heavy load on our aging stormwater system. We need to look at all options. Has anyone in the Village leadership talked to the MWRD to come up with a 20 year plan? Stormwater management can't be tackled piecemeal, it needs to be masterplanned.

  • Bridgett from Oak Park

    Posted: October 27th, 2013 9:22 PM

    @Duane, only 1/3 of the Village has the sandy soils that make these permeable pavers even possible. The pavers won't work in NE Oak Park because of the soil. And without this grant, those nine alleys that will be paved, wouldn't be paved. Permeable costs 38% more than concrete. The other alternative is clay. But clay is 75%-80% more expensive than concrete. And no grants are being offered for clay.

  • Downtown OP Resident

    Posted: October 27th, 2013 9:05 PM

    Finally, since getting grant money seems to be the 'be all and end all' of local governance, can you at least look at this issue and see what other communities have done? Being leaders doesn't require only writing grants, why not use these 57 bodies to think creatively about the issue and find ways to deal with the issue? Any grants out there to check and then improve on indoor air quality affected by soot from cooking/restaurants and high density local parking?

  • Downtown OP Resident

    Posted: October 27th, 2013 8:59 PM

    This sort of study and perhaps a companion study of illnesses in the mixed residential-shopping areas. Ideally, it would have been better to start before all the "development" and collect data, if possible, on local illnesses related to air quality.

  • Downtown OP Resident

    Posted: October 27th, 2013 8:54 PM

    A nice environment science project for a local student might be a particulate or pollution study of local microenvironments to include all the "Green" areas in OP. Look, I know that Chicago land is bad for this stuff in general and its better here than in neighboring areas but that is just the point. OP likes to say that is is this progressive community but it's basically turning into Chicago light with a leaving middle class and crony capitalism. It's all just talk, this progressivism.

  • Downtown OP Resident

    Posted: October 27th, 2013 8:51 PM

    Where was all this concern for Green living when newer parking lots were stuffed into mixed shopping-residential areas without pollution mitigation planning or better inspections of new construction? Or when the village neglected local business recruitment so that nothing but restaurants opened up downtown contributing to sooty indoor air quality & staining? I'm glad the for grant and happy for those affected, I just wish for basic due diligence in development activities.

  • Duane Hill from Oak Park

    Posted: October 27th, 2013 8:04 PM

    As a resident of the Northeast corner of Oak Park, I pushed for the program early this past year with the idea that it should be village wide. I do think that a comprehensive green alley program to the west of us may alleviate the amount of storm water flowing through our neighborhood on its way to our nearest water treatment plant. But it will only work if this is Village wide.

  • Marsha Moseley from Oak Park

    Posted: October 27th, 2013 3:08 PM

    We recently had our alley at the 700 block between Hayes and Lombard repaved with non-permeable concrete, with just a gulley down the middle to direct the storm water to the street drains. We had petitioned for permeable brick, but we were told that our soil in this Northeast of Ridgeland area had too much clay to allow drainage with a permeable surface. Anyway, I would like to know if there are any further plans to prevent flooding basements in this area -- not good for real estate values.

  • Brendan

    Posted: October 26th, 2013 8:25 AM

    Ray Johnson, the sewage back flow system does not solve the problem. The sewer system east of ridgeland is old and not capable of serving this area effectively. You have engineers statements indicating this. You did nothing. It's time for you to go as well!

  • Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: October 26th, 2013 7:06 AM

    @Brendan: the news article notes these alleys are placed in areas which already have sandy soils and those locations are all West of Ridgeland. The sewage back-flow prevention grant program is available for residents, especially those with flooding concerns in Northeast Oak Park. Contact for more information.

  • Brendan

    Posted: October 25th, 2013 7:09 AM

    Hopefully these alleys are in north east Oak Park where basements flood because the village won't upgrade the sewer system. The past board president didn't only ignore this area, he stated that basements were made to hold sewer overflow and residents should not try to use it as living space. I am so glad pope is gone. What a jerk.

  • PAZ

    Posted: October 24th, 2013 10:13 PM

    Wow! Congratulations to John W, Jim B, Karen R and KC D on jobs well done and for your constant endeavors to make OP a better place for its residents and businesses. Your efforts should be applauded and appreciated by all.

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