Ike discussion is at a critical stage

Opinion: Columns

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By Don Harmon

Next Tuesday, Oct. 29, I will be hosting a town hall meeting in Oak Park to discuss proposed renovations of the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and improvements to the CTA Blue Line. I hope you will be able to join this important discussion. The head of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Ann Schneider, and the vice president of planning at the CTA, Michael Connelly, will be with us to help answer our questions about these projects.

As you may know, IDOT has put forth four possible proposals to renovate the Eisenhower Expressway from Racine Avenue to Mannheim Road. Improvements and future plans for the CTA Blue Line are also under discussion.

We are now at a critical point, hammering out project details that will affect our neighborhoods and the region for decades to come. IDOT has said it will choose a final "preferred" alternative (meaning final plan for improvement and expansion) by late 2014, including adding highway lanes and moving exit and entrance ramps. IDOT is accepting formal public comments on these plans through Nov. 7.

We already have had an impact on this project by ensuring that any reconfiguration of the expressway will remain in the existing footprint of the I-290 "ditch" through the impacted communities — a critical detail not guaranteed when this process began years ago. I am also pleased that the potential future westward extension of the CTA Blue Line has been taken into consideration.

That said, many details remain incomplete. I urge you to learn more and to help shape these future plans to the greatest extent possible. We have an opportunity to advocate for community benefits, including measures to mitigate noise and air pollution, expanded sidewalks with improved pedestrian and bicycle access, better CTA stations along the corridor, and other enhancements to the bridges over the expressway that will be rebuilt.

The town hall will be held at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School, 325 S. Kenilworth Ave., Oak Park, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Additional information on the expressway project is available at the IDOT Eisenhower project website http://eisenhowerexpressway.com.

I hope you are able to join. If you have any questions, please feel free to call my Constituent Service Office at 708-848-2002.

Don Harmon is state senator from the 39th District.

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