Two and a half years ago, the Riverside village board voted to expand a village law mandating the use of exposed aggregate concrete to include not just sidewalks, but driveway aprons and carriage walks — the short, narrow walks between the sidewalk and the curb.

On June 19, Riverside trustees voted 4-2 to essentially turn that law on its head.

From here on out, exposed aggregate — the old-fashioned concrete that has a rough, pea-gravel surface — is out. 

In its place, broom-finished concrete — the smooth concrete seen most everywhere outside of Riverside — will be poured to replace sidewalks, carriage walks and driveway aprons. Exposed aggregate remains an option for driveway aprons; however, the added cost for exposed aggregate likely will deter people from choosing it.

“We’re not talking about a 5 percent difference in cost,” said Trustee Ellen Hamilton. “We owe it to our citizens to err on the side of cost.”

A June 18 letter to Riverside Director of Public Works Edward Bailey from the village’s engineering firm indicated that both exposed aggregate and broom-finished concrete were equally strong and durable.

However, exposed aggregate — due to the two-step process for applying it — is 25-35 percent more expensive than broom-finished concrete. 

With a recent survey of the village’s sidewalks indicating that Riverside has nearly 5,000 squares that need to be replaced, a majority of trustees felt the use of broom-finished concrete would allow the village to replace them at a faster pace.

Trustees Jean Sussman and Doug Pollock voted against the change, principally on aesthetic grounds. Sussman favored mandating the use of exposed aggregate in certain areas of the village, such as Riverside Road, Harlem Avenue and the First Division, where exposed aggregate sidewalks are the norm.

Trustees Joseph Ballerine, Hamilton, Patricia Collins and Michael Foley voted for the change. Village President Ben Sells’ vote wasn’t needed; he had expressed support for the change in the past.

In 2011, when the exposed aggregate mandate was expanded, Sells (a trustee at the time) and Ballerine voted against it. So did Sussman, who favored exposed aggregate this time around. 

“I think you’re going to see a marked difference in those areas particularly,” Sussman said.

Pollock was in favor of retaining the use of exposed aggregate throughout the village for sidewalks.

“It’s definitely worth the extra money because the aesthetic benefit is substantial,” Pollock said.

In 2011, a majority of trustees felt the same way. At that time several trustees were worried about the use of broom-finished concrete, particularly the type that appears to be a very bright white after it’s poured.

That is still a concern, and the new village code prohibits the use of any curing agent that turns concrete white. The code calls for the concrete to conform with a specific Illinois Department of Transportation standard to mitigate the “white” factor. In time, the color of broom-finished concrete will dull.

Also in 2011, trustees were concerned that the introduction of broom-finished concrete on a large scale would create a “patchwork” effect that would detract from the Olmsted landscape.

But the present village board generally agreed that, even with exposed aggregate, the village’s sidewalks were already a patchwork of methods and results — from the almost black-tinted squares near the center of town to the tightly packed, larger aggregate seen in others.

However, the village did carve out one exception in the new code. The broom-finish mandate will not apply, for now, in the central business district.

With a state grant in hand, the village is in the process of re-designing the streetscape of East Burlington Street east of Longcommon Road. That plan could include exposed aggregate, broom-finished concrete or even brick pavers. Until the village has a plan in hand, the board has kept the downtown area without a specific standard.

Riverside has set aside roughly $70,000 for sidewalk square replacement in 2014. Joining with a handful of other villages, Riverside has already received bid prices for replacement this year — $6.75 per square foot for broom-finished concrete and $9.25 per square foot for exposed aggregate, a difference of 37 percent.

By choosing broom-finished concrete, Riverside will be able to replace at least 250 more sidewalk squares in 2014 versus exposed aggregate.