Crews could begin moving earth to accommodate a new 8-foot-wide bike/pedestrian path along the west side of First Avenue from Ridgewood Road to 31st Street during the first week of November, North Riverside officials stated Monday.

About three weeks ago, the Illinois Department of Transportation approved the engineering plans for the bike path, which is the first phase in a three-phase effort to directly connect Riverside-Brookfield High School with North Riverside.

“All intentions are to get it built this year,” said Guy Belmonte, North Riverside’s village administrator.

Although the path being constructed is actually in Riverside, the village of North Riverside has taken the lead on the project, locally. Its engineering firm, Frank Novotny & Associates, completed the phase-one drawings and the village will open bids for the work on Oct. 20.

That evening, at the regularly scheduled meeting of the North Riverside Village Board, trustees are expected to approve a contract for the work. Phase one is expected to cost about $200,000 to complete. Riverside, North Riverside and Riverside-Brookfield High School pledged about $30,000 each toward the project. Another $100,000 was pledged by the Cook County Forest Preserve District Board of Trustees.

When the final two phases are complete, there will be a path running along First Avenue and Golfview Avenue from 26th Street to Ridgewood Road. In addition, an east-west path along 31st Street will connect First Avenue and Prairie Avenue in Brookfield.

Funding for the final two phases of the project have not been secured officially. State Sen. Martin Sandoval, the chairman of the state senate’s transportation committee, has said he will secure $600,000 to complete the project.

John Fitzgerald, who is North Riverside’s village engineer, said typically contracts aren’t awarded the day bids are opened, but time is of the essence.

“We’re trying to fast-track this thing,” said Fitzgerald. “In this case, we didn’t want to wait until the next village board meeting [on Nov. 3].”

That’s because construction crews will already be up against the clock. The project, according to Fitzgerald, will take approximately a month to complete — weather permitting.

Asphalt plants in Illinois typically close about mid-December, said Fitzgerald, though they have closed as early as Dec. 1.

“We’re hoping to be done around the very end of November or the first 10 days of December,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot of hoping here, but I’ve built things later than this.”

 The construction effort will be pretty routine for most of the length of the proposed pathway. An excavator will clear the ground for the path, which will be backfilled with a gravel base and topped with asphalt.

Things will get more complicated as the work approaches 31st Street. The path will cut diagonally behind the Brookfield Zoo sign at the corner of 31st Street and First Avenue. That will require some tree removal, including a couple of large trees, moving the zoo’s fence and building a retaining wall.

Once the path is laid, it’ll be striped and topsoil and sod will be placed along the edges of the new path. Depending on weather, the striping and landscaping might have to wait until spring.

“We’re still hopeful at this point to do the whole job this year,” Fitzgerald said.

This story has been changed to correct the local government contributors toward the path’s phase one project. They were Riverside, North Riverside and Riverside-Brookfield High School. The village of Brookfield did not contribute anything toward phase one. Brookfield will become more involved as the final two phases move ahead.