By Anna Lothson
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting another meeting to gather input on the early stages of its overall plan to improve its roadways from a 'multi-modal' perspective.
The plan, specifically called the Fiscal Year 2014-2018 Proposed Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program, will be detailed at a public meeting at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., in Chicago from 3-6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16. Although the presentation isn't related to the last bit of information IDOT provided to Oak Parkers in June about the possibility of widening the Eisenhower Expressway, the Village of Oak Park is paying close attention.
A village memo was prepared that details nine key points IDOT must consider before moving forward with any plan. Rob Cole, assistant village manager, said it's important for Oak Park to stay involved to ensure that IDOT doesn't veer from its commitment to incorporating a multi-transit solution to easing traffic congestion.
The concern from Oak Park's view about IDOT's plan is that it's not in fact "multi-modal," as the highway department suggests, Cole said. Instead it looks exclusively at the roadways and ignores public transportation (specifically the CTA Blue Line).
"They have essentially divorced the repairs for the Blue Line from the highways," Cole said. As a result, IDOT is missing opportunities to tackle the problems at the same time, which will only push problems further down the road, he added.
"The CTA Blue Line is right in the middle of highway. The highway expansion [plan] is excluding that," Cole said. "That's not a multi-modal."
Furthermore, Cole said IDOT needs to work with other transportation groups, like the CTA and PACE, to determine how they can work together to tackle the project at one time instead of looking at it solely from a highway viewpoint.
"Agency boundaries don't determine what the transportation needs are," Cole said. "You need to look at all pieces of transportation amenities and make sure they are brought up to the same state at the same time. … You can't ignore the state of good repairs and focus on one simply because you are highway department."
At past meetings, IDOT officials have said the life span of the Eisenhower and the Blue Line are nearing their respective ends, and they promised to incorporate the two when moving forward. The concepts that people will hear at next week's meeting, however, don't reflect that, according to Cole. He's worried this move is a slippery slope and will apply to similar issues with IDOTs highway expansion proposal impacting Oak Park.
One of the points outlined in Oak Park's memo states that the five-year plan fails to recognize the importance of incorporating all the elements, and excludes an opportunity to save time and money. It also notes that no resources are assigned to public transit infrastructure needs located within the highway median.
"It doesn't include anything to improve state of repairs," Cole stressed. "They are viewing the project through a jaded lens of highway constraints."
In the June meeting in Oak Park, IDOT officials, Oak Park leaders and residents collided over their views on the expansion proposal. Concerns about environmental impact, incorporating more public transportation options, and keeping the Ike within its current footprint were expressed then. Representatives from IDOT promised they'd be back for another public hearing in the fall, but Cole said he has yet to hear any news about such a meeting.
Tuesday's meeting will be an open-house format, with a continuous audio-video presentation and exhibits illustrating the current fiscal year 2013-2018 plan. IDOT staff will be present to answer any questions related to the multi-modal program, project planning and development process. For more information on Oak Park's position on this issue, call 708-358-5791 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to read more about Oak Park's position.