By Bob Uphues
The good news is that work related to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago's massive project to repair its Salt Creek Intercepting Sewer No. 2 below First Avenue and parts of Riverside, Brookfield and Lyons will finally draw to a close by the end of November.
The bad news is that the final phase of the work is going to result in a headache for motorists using First Avenue between Ogden Avenue and 31st Street next month.
The final phase of work was slated to begin Oct. 14, with workers from Kenny Construction repairing nine manhole structures scattered in Riverside, Lyons and on the Brookfield Zoo property.
According to Riverside Public Works Director Edward Bailey, the MWRD did not accept the initial repairs to the nine manhole structures and ordered them redone by the general contractor, Kenny Construction, hired to do the work.
Four of the manhole structures are along Riverside Road in Riverside, at the Blackhawk, Olmsted, Gage and Lawton road intersections. The fifth is located on Miller Road, just north of Ogden Avenue.
According to Baldemar Corral Jr., a civil engineer at Kenny Construction, most of the work will require minor detours around landscape islands at the Riverside Road intersections and should not be too much of an inconvenience to motorists.
Only one of the two manhole structures on Brookfield Zoo property are in what would be considered the "public" part of the zoo. Corral said workers would limit their activities to night time hours when the zoo is closed to the public.
Bailey said that Kenny ought to have the manhole structure repairs completed, weather permitting, by mid-November.
Then comes the real headache.
Once the manhole structures are repaired work will shift to the intersection of First Avenue and Forest Avenue/Ridgewood Road. Since work began in 2016, the area below the intersection has functioned as a critical juncture.
Not only does the intercepting sewer branch off to the east and west there, the MWRD installed bypass pumps there to direct storm water runoff away from sections of the pipe being repaired.
In order to allow easier access to the pumps, the MWRD installed large steel plates over the entrance. The final job will be to remove the bypass pumps and steel plates in the roadway, restore the street surface and remove the temporary traffic signals that have been in place for more than three years.
The work will require Kenny Construction to close the northbound lanes of First Avenue at Forest Avenue and the right-turn lane on westbound Forest Avenue for about three weeks.
As a result, traffic lanes will shift west and there will be just one lane of traffic in each direction through the construction zone.
Bailey said the plan is for the intersection to be resurfaced with asphalt this year. However, if weather makes that impossible, it will likely be patched with concrete and resurfaced with asphalt next spring.
In either case, said Bailey, the village would like to see the temporary traffic signals removed when the intersection repairs are largely complete in November.
"That should be the last of it," Bailey said of the project.
Riverside officials are recommending that motorists consider an alternate route unless they must travel through the area.
The work may also affect students crossing First Avenue to get back and forth from Riverside-Brookfield High School and Hauser Junior High. Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said he was not sure yet if students would be limited to crossing First Avenue in the south crosswalk.
That plan is still being worked out, but Weitzel said two crossing guards would remain at the intersection and he may bolster their presence with the village's community service officer during drop-off and pickup times at the high school.
"Make no mistake, it's going to be congested and it's going to require a long period of time to drive not only north and south on First Avenue, but also east and west," Weitzel said.