By the end of the business day June 30 – the last day of the State of Illinois fiscal year – all projects bid by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will be shut down. Two projects here, the Ridge/Emerson/Green Bay Road and the Dodge Avenue protected bike lane, will be shut down, City Engineering and Capital Planning Bureau Chief Lara Biggs told the RoundTable. She said the City received notice of the looming shutdown at about 4 p.m. on June 21, and since then crews have been “temporarily permanently” shutting down the construction site on Green Bay Road.
The shutdown period “could be indefinite,” Ms. Biggs told the RoundTable, adding the City was asked “to shut down so the contractor [A Lamp] could do a permanent shutdown.” She added the City is doing everything to make the area “as safe as possible” during the shutdown period.
Halting the bike lane project along Dodge Avenue did not present many challenges, Ms. Biggs said, because the construction project itself involves only removing the old lane markings and restriping the lanes.
The construction project along Green Bay Road between Foster and Noyes streets, the first phase in the larger project reconfiguring the intersection of Emerson Street, Ridge Avenue and Green Bay Road, involved replacing the water main there.
That was not completed before the shutdown, Ms. Biggs said, and the current water main will continue to serve area residents and businesses there.
A Lamp has been “very cooperative” with the mandated shutdown, she said, even performing extra work on the water system, such as capping some pipes that had been installed but not connected, to ensure no water would be trapped there. The roads have been resurfaced so traffic can resume on all lanes there.
Most fire hydrants in the area are located on the cross streets, rather than on Green Bay Road, said Ms. Biggs. Fire Chief Greg Klaiber told the RoundTable he drove that section of Green Bay Road “just to confirm. We have no issues with water supply.”
Even though IDOT is not the funding source for either the Emerson/Ridge/Green Bay intersection or the Dodge Avenue bike lane project, both were under the shutdown mandate because IDOT bid the project and initially pays the contractors and is later reimbursed by City of Evanston and federal funds. “The funds have been committed by the feds and the City of Evanston,” said Ms. Biggs. She also said that, although the City would like to finish the project this year, the length of the shutdown will determine whether that will happen.
When Ms. Biggs made the announcement at the June 27 City Council meeting, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl asked, “How much is this nonsense going to cost us?”
Ms. Biggs said she did not have a firm figure but estimated it would be in the “low tens of thousands” of dollars. “IDOT has asked us to keep track of those costs separately, without really indicating how this gets reimbursed,” she added.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the City is providing space for some of A Lamp’s machinery, so that it would be easier and quicker to resume work. “We’re hoping it will be resolved by the end of the week,” he said.
“This is just outrageous,” said Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward. He encouraged his colleagues to speak up in protest by reaching out to State legislators and to their constituents. “People need to start saying something,” he said. “Let Springfield know they have to do their jobs.”
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested putting up signs throughout the community saying “This delay is brought to you by your friends in Springfield.”
“It’s not our fault,” said Ald. Fiske.
“It’s not our fault,” said Mayor Tisdahl, “but I guarantee you, we will be blamed.”
On June 27, Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, issued a statement in which he “and several mayors from around Illinois urged the Democrats in the General Assembly to return to Springfield and pass the GOP Leaders’ stopgap budget (HB 6585/SB 3435) and education budget (HB 6583/SB 3434).”
The Governor’s stopgap budget bill “funds a variety of critical government operations and services including: paying vendors at the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Department of Human Services; allowing federal dollars to pass through state agencies to fund programs like the Child Care Assistance Program; ensuring construction projects at the Illinois Department of Transportation continue uninterrupted; and providing another bridge to public universities and community colleges,” according to the statement.
State Representative Robyn Gabel told the RoundTable she expected that there would be a vote on those bills on June 28 but declined to predict what the outcome would be.
State Representative Laura Finel expressed more optimism, tellling the RoundTable she thought the matter could be settled by the end of the week. She added, thought, that the Governor has veto power over all bills.
Construction on IDOT Projects ato Resume July 5
On June 30, the Illinois General Assembly approved a “stopgap” budget for fiscal year 2017. Among other things, the budget allows funding for social services, education and “agencies” and this will allow work to continue on the Emerson-Ridge-Green Bay and the Dodge Avenue protected bike lane projects.
Lara Biggs, City engineer and Capital Planning & Engineering Bureau Chief sent a message to the City Manager on the evening of June 30 that said, “The City has received authorization from the Illinois Department of Transportation to resume work on our IDOT-managed projects as early as tomorrow (Friday, July 1). However, on both the Dodge Avenue Bike Lane Improvements and Emerson/Ridge/Green Bay Road Intersection Improvements, we have directed the contractors that they may start work again on Tuesday, July 5, in order to minimize any disruption for the holiday weekend.”