A better Madison Street for all

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By Bike Walk Oak Park

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As advocates for the fair and safe use of friendly streets by all our neighbors who walk, roll, ride, and drive, Bike Walk Oak Park supports the Redevelopment of the Madison Street Public Infrastructure Plan, also known as the Madison Street Road Diet. Extending from Harlem to Austin, the plan would narrow Madison to three lanes (two lanes plus a left turn lane), improve parkways and crosswalks, and add bike lanes.

As a volunteer citizen group focused on safety for all on our streets, we would like to address specific points regarding this project.

Safety: Something we all can agree on. The data is unequivocal when it comes to safety: Road diets reduce crashes between 19 and 47 percent — 2015-17 police data shows nearly one crash per day on Madison in Oak Park. One of the primary ways road-narrowing projects make streets safer is by reducing average speeds. With four schools and two senior residences within one block of Madison, the safety of vulnerable pedestrians is at stake.

Potential traffic diversion into local side streets: This does indeed occur when there is too much average daily traffic on a street for a narrowing project to function, but that is not the case for Madison. The Federal Highway Administration has found that road-narrowing projects are appropriate for streets with Madison's level of traffic. Some traffic diversion will happen, but other streets would be less convenient detours for most Madison drivers. Ridgeland handles similar traffic volumes without strong diversion patterns. 

Narrowing Madison to three lanes might cause traffic backups: Project traffic engineers say narrowing Madison would not significantly add time to the drive between Austin and Harlem. The Federal Highway Administration found that narrowing four lane streets with traffic volumes like Madison's has little effect on travel times; in fact, clearing clogged travel lanes of left-turning traffic actually improves traffic flow.

Positive effects on local businesses: Road-narrowing projects help business districts succeed by making streets safer and more appealing. When paired with streetscape improvements (as the Madison Street project would be), road-narrowing projects create environments that people enjoy and are likely to attract new businesses. Businesses on Madison have consistently been in favor of such a plan during many years of study and community input.

Transparency and outreach: This plan has been in the making for more than eight years, and the village has held numerous public meetings and outreach events in relation to the activities of the Madison Streetscape Steering Committee (2010-2011), the preliminary traffic plan (2011), and the development and refinement of the plan currently under consideration (2012-2018).

A plan that makes Madison safer, more economically viable, and welcoming to walkers, cyclists, and drivers will benefit nearby residents and neighborhoods. Livable streets like the one proposed in the plan for Madison are one of the reasons why people choose to visit, live in, and invest in communities like Oak Park.

Brian Crawford and Jenna Holzberg are co-chairs and Rachel Poretzky is a member of Bike Walk Oak Park.

Reader Comments

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Margy Feley  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 2:39 PM

I agree that there should be a trial run and if we do have to go on a "Road Diet" it should not eliminate the islands that were put in within 15+ years at a cost of millions of tax dollars, I'm sure. I am not opposed to safety upgrades (like some well lit/marked crosswalks with flashing stop signs). But if the Village of OP is so concerned with safety, why does my neighbor have to go out and trim trees so we can safely get out of the alley? And why aren't the police out ticketing all those drivers who can't seem to stop when the morning school bus puts out it's STOP sign? And what about all the people who park in a no parking zone on Madison St. by the Jewel so a safe left turn is virtually impossible when leaving the store lot? Also, at a recent meeting about the "Road Diet", it's mentioned that making the road narrower will connect it with Madison St. in Forest Park (a nice, connected, walkable strip of shops and restaurants). Don't people realize that Madison St. in OP was not designed as a "Main St"? I just can't see spending millions of dollars on another ill thought out project that guarantees nothing.

David Stewart  

Posted: November 16th, 2018 1:47 PM

Your conclusions of the project's benefits are speculative at best and pipe dreams at worst. Before it's undertaken, how about a trial run for six months, using cones and bollards or whatever to simulate the road diet? Then you could measure the diversion rate, the safety improvements and could count all the extra revenue Madison Street businesses realize.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 14th, 2018 12:58 PM

Using this logic, we could make Madison completely safe by closing it off to all auto traffic. This plan has been "in the making" for years because it is frankly a dumb plan -- if it was a great plan it would have happened years ago. Spending many millions on that street at the very same time the town is supposedly desperately trying to figure out how to hold the line on taxes is so Oak Park.

Christopher Goode  

Posted: November 14th, 2018 12:14 PM

I think this project is a giant boondoggle about to happen. I think this is a prime candidate for saving the village a bundle of money by not doing it. But if they are determined, and I think that trying out a road diet is a fine idea as long as it only involves paint and very minor work. We don't need to tear out the medians that we installed about 15 years ago at some expense. We don't need fancy materials or blue stone or new curbs, sidewalks, etc. Figure out how to do it without removing stuff and driving up costs so that when it inevitably doesnt actually work and we want to correct the mess we have made both transitions won't have cost us too much.

George Smith  

Posted: November 13th, 2018 7:56 PM

Tearing up Lake Street and Madison at the same time? What could go wrong? In other news the 1100 block of North Blvd has been a mess for a year and lo and behold Oak Park Jewelers is shutting down. When will this Village learn?

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