Central Avenue and Downtown Streetscape Project
Firm: TransSystem Corporation, Teska Associates, BLA Inc.
Owner: Village of Wilmette
Description: Original or Innovative Application of New or Existing Techniques: One of the concerns expressed by stakeholders in Phase I was speeding along the corridor, and traffic calming measures became a priority. Raised intersections at 11th Street and 8th Street were developed conceptually in Phase I and designed in Phase II to bring attention to the transition between residential and downtown sections (11th Street) and at a nearby intersection to the Central Elementary School (8th Street). The raised intersections allowed motorists to perceive locations where slower speeds were encouraged.
Future Value to the Engineering Profession and Perception by the Public: While ensuring the ongoing economic viability of Wilmette as part of Chicago’s North Shore, the Central Avenue project protected business and residential communities through improved functionality (upgraded pavement, new underground utilities and modernized traffic signals), increased safety utilizing raised intersections to demark transitions between business and residential areas, and an eye toward overall aesthetics and outdoor gatherings through extensive streetscape features.
Social, Economic and Sustainable Design Considerations: TranSystems work provided several benefits to Wilmette beyond the traditional benefits of a roadway reconstruction. Green infrastructure elements incorporated in the project included native plantings, new trees, and tree protection to promote environmental sustainability. Significant consideration was given to construction and economic impacts, and significant mitigation measures were undertaken. The project is located in a high-traffic, high visibility area with lots of businesses. Constant coordination between the Village and residents and businesses was essential in making this project a success. The COVID-19 pandemic uniquely affected this project by creating challenges to completing construction while keeping the downtown businesses operating – requiring additional dust control efforts, time restrictions, access and parking management, and changes to staging. Due to concerns regarding business interruptions, no watermain work downtown was allowed to begin until September 1st. The focus was to complete as much roadway work, then work on the sidewalk as time allowed. The decision to hold off sidewalk work until the following year was made in late November 2020. Roughly 1,200 feet of 10” watermain, 1,000 feet of storm sewer and structures, and a complete roadway reconstruction except for surface was completed in three months.
Complexity: Due to the project’s location in a downtown area, significant coordination across stakeholders needed to occur to keep the community aware of project impacts and upcoming work in the area. Over 50 businesses and 120 residents were directly affected along the limits of the project, including three houses of worship, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, First Congregational Church, and Congregation Sukkat Shalom. Impacted schools and municipal buildings included Wilmette Community Nursery School, Central Elementary School, and Village Hall. Pace buses also had routes along Central Avenue that needed to be maintained during construction. Constant coordination between the Village and residents/businesses was essential in making this project a success. Each week, the construction team would provide updates on work being done as well as on what residents and businesses could expect the following week. TranSystems Wilmette: Central Avenue Phase III H: Transportation Another complex challenge that the project faced was the utility work. Watermain breaks occurred frequently, due to the watermain being over 100 years old. After a watermain break downtown due to vibrations from compaction, the Village and resident engineer determined that the watermain would need to be abandoned before continuing roadway excavation and construction of the aggregate subgrade improvement. Due to the sensitivity of the downtown businesses which relied on water service, any breaks were a major disruption. Work was expedited to quickly abandon the main without causing any major delays to roadway operations and keep the project on schedule.
Exceeding Owner Needs: The project team exceeded the owner’s expectations throughout the life of the project. They ensured timely and relevant communication across stakeholder groups, including residents, businesses, churches, Central Elementary School, and Pace.. Each week throughout project construction, businesses and residents were provided with a weekly update on work that would occur that week and what was expected to occur the following week. The construction team worked together to take calls directly from businesses and residents and promptly respond to questions or concerns about the project. D. Costs and Completion Dates Total Project Budgeted Cost Entrant’s Portion of Budgeted Cost Scheduled Date of Completion $8,950,000 $8,950,000 June 2021 Total Project Actual Cost Entrant’s Portion of Actual Cost Actual Date of Completion $8,850,000 $8,850,000 September 2021
Village of Wilmette