Ike expansion, balanced budget

Opinion: Editorials

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Newly repaved, the Eisenhower Expressway ought to be good to go for many years to come. The Ike resurfacing, though, delays just slightly the debate between fundamentally conflicted forces: Whether to add two lanes to the highway by exploding it out of its existing ditch through the village, or whether to finally acknowledge there will never be enough lanes so long as every state and federal policy remains auto- and exurban-focused.

This is the battle Oak Park has been fighting and leading for nearly a decade. We're proud of the village's role in promoting transit alternatives like light rail and its sharp political leadership in organizing other west suburban and DuPage County communities to finally look at transit issues with thoughtful and creative approaches.

There have been four prongs to this sustained effort: Our elected leaders, principally Village President David Pope, have been diligent in forming political alliances. Village staff, led in this instance by Deputy Village Manager Rob Cole, has kept the focus sharp and the pressure on state agencies. Citizen leaders, notably former trustee Rick Kuner, have made the strong, data-driven case for alternatives to more ribbons of concrete. Finally, Oak Park has been paying a lobbying firm out of Washington for the past seven years to keep tabs on where federal dollars — the essential funding for any massive project — might flow.

Now, in tough times, the village comes again to make a budget and at least one trustee wants to review the lobbying costs involved. As we reported last week, $1.3 million has been spent to date. Costs have been contained by the village staff of late, and so, less than $100,000 was spent in 2009.

In a village that recently fired a highly regarded deputy police chief due to budget shortfalls, we think the axe must fall on the Nossaman LLP lobbying firm. It's a tough but necessary choice.

Given the strength of the efforts from elected, hired and volunteer sources we are confident that such a cut can be made without risking the goal of redirecting the constant impulse of the Illinois Department of Transportation to just build more highways, more lanes.

Finally, we strenuously object to the village's recent position that reports to the village from the lobbying firm are protected from our curious eyes by the "pending or imminent litigation" provisions of the state's Freedom of Information Act. Total horse hockey. Totally unacceptable.

Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 1st, 2010 2:11 PM

Ironically, Oak Park Michigan is an excellent example of a highway cap working. About two miles of the highway 6-96 was rebuilt in the 1990's and a long and highly debated Cap - No Cap ensued. Cap own and has saved the community of Oak Park while creating a better flow of traffic on 6-96. An OP Cap is probably the best solution for Oak Park Illinois and if we have to spend some money to accomplish that, it is probably worthwhile.

Christopher Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: October 27th, 2010 3:10 PM

We have three freight tracks, space for four CTA tracks and six lanes of Interstate highway including shoulders and on/off ramps in the town dividing gash of one city block. Isn't that enough? You can build several more lanes and it won't relieve traffic congestion. Look at the Ryan or I-55 if you want to see an example of 8 lane roads with no bottlenecks that still don't move during rush hour. I say put on the full court press, stop the highway building madness and get the CTA to DuPage.

Dan Finnegan  

Posted: October 27th, 2010 2:30 PM

Has the village ever asked the voters if they were against an IKE expansion before spending money to track the issue? I realize that preserving property on Garfield and Harrison, as well as the green aspect of expanding rail lines are good reasons to be against an IKE expansion. But consider how many cars drive through Oak Park in the morning and evening rush to avoid the seemingly perpetual traffic jam between Harlem and Austin. How much more pedestrian, bicycle and EV vehicle friendly would Oak Park be if the IKE was expanded? How much less street repair, traffic calming schemes and complaints about commuters would there be if Oak Park wasn%u2019t the bottleneck in our portion of the interstate system? Maybe we wouldn%u2019t even need as many crossing guards if commuters were on the IKE instead of using our streets.

Me  

Posted: October 27th, 2010 11:57 AM

Put the track over? Are you kidding. Can you imagine trying to cross the tracks during rush hour. Have you driven through Riverside or Brookfield? Stop wasting are money and drop it all together.

Chris Donovan  

Posted: October 27th, 2010 10:05 AM

I'll agree and disagree. Drop the lobbyists as an unneeded expense, now. Expand the Eisenhower by evicting CSX Railroad, move the CTA tracks over, and widen the Ike without taking any other property.

W from Oak Park  

Posted: October 27th, 2010 8:41 AM

Agree - 100% agree - village should no longer budget any $$ for Nossaman LLP.

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