By Bob Uphues
On Sept. 9, Brookfield village trustees stepped up and replaced the village of Riverside as the lead local agency to move forward a plan to extend the First Avenue bike path, which also now will incorporate Phase I engineering for connector routes along 31st Street and Washington Avenue, from Prairie Avenue to First Avenue.
Earlier this year, Riverside officials announced they would take the lead on the engineering portion of the project, which at that time focused principally on extending the First Avenue path south to Ogden Avenue and the east to the Cermak Woods in Lyons.
But, after Brookfield officials confirmed they'd be interested in pursuing a joint project with Riverside, LaGrange Park, Lyons and the Cook County Forest Preserve District, officials decided it made more sense to have Brookfield serve as the lead agency, since it was the largest municipality of those involved.
"We're happy for Brookfield to take the reins," said Riverside Community Development Director Sonya Abt, who had spearheaded the project for Riverside. "We're happy to be part whether we're the lead agency or not."
The Central Conference of Mayors has promised about $432,000 in federal grant funds to pay for the lion's share of Phase I engineering for the bike trail extension project. The total cost for the engineering phase is projected to be about $540,000.
That leaves Brookfield, Riverside, LaGrange Park, Lyons and the Forest Preserve District to divide up the remaining $108,000.
Of that amount Brookfield will pay $35,500, while Riverside and Lyons would pay about $22,300 each. LaGrange Park and the forest preserves would pay about $11,800 and $16,000 respectively.
LaGrange Park is being included in the project, because engineering will also address intersection improvements at 31st Street and Maple Avenue.
Brookfield earlier this year had contemplated undertaking Phase I engineering on its own for the 31st Street portion of project and had obtained a $150,000 Cook County grant to help fund it.
However, that still left the village about $90,000 short of the estimated total cost, and village officials were reluctant to take on the whole cost for a project they considered a benefit to the wider region.
With the latest arrangement reducing Brookfield's burden by two-thirds, village trustees unanimously approved a resolution on Sept. 9 to serve as the lead agency for the project.
Brookfield officials also believe they ought to be able to use money from the Cook County grant to fund the village's portion of the engineering costs.
"I think it's an absolute win-win," said Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg.
The only caveat, said Wiberg, is that even with Phase I engineering funded, there's no funding source yet identified for construction of a future trail extension.
"We probably won't see construction for about three years or so," Wiberg said. "We're not guaranteed the millions of dollars to construct it, [but] I will tell you it puts us in a much stronger position to get that millions of dollars. … I'm optimistic that we'll ultimately get the construction funds."