By Anna Lothson
The New Year will come with new comments about the I-290 Eisenhower Expressway reconstruction project that's garnered a wealth of attention from residents and officials in Oak Park.
In the past 60 days alone, there have been three community meetings about the Ike. Each session was met with their fair share of public criticism and support for the expansion project. The village has also created a website to continue dialogue from the public, and uses it to continue the talks outside of the forums.
Trustee Ray Johnson suggested during the village board's Nov. 18, meeting that more regional sessions need to take place so that "we're not just looking at the impacts on Oak Park, but so we're having a discussion with our neighboring communities."
Village staff, Johnson added, should look into dipping into past grant funds the village has received for this project. Those grants, he said, may allow for the village to hire someone with technical expertise in regards to the reports and project drawings from the Illinois Department of Transportation. This would include evaluating the proposal of sound-proof walls and how it impacts sound, as well as how it travels from the expressway, Johnson said.
He continued his skepticism about many elements of the project and suggested Oak Park officials and residents need to stay ahead of the game.
"The more IDOT talks, the more concerned I get," Johnson said.
The board was provided with a brief report from Assistant Village Manager Rob Cole, who provided a list of questions staff has tasked village board direction from in January.
Those questions include:
Is it the village's position that CTA Blue Line improvements must be completed in tandem with I-290 reconstruction?
Is the expansion of bridge decking in Oak Park maximized with the current plan and what strategies does the village support to ensure these capital improvements are part of the I-290 reconstruction?
Does the village support pricing strategies for cars on the I-290 and, if so, does the village want to advocate for mandatory revenue share with corridor transit, etc.?
How can the village clarify if Oak Park will be asked to locally fund capital expenditures related to the I-290 reconstruction for project elements that are proposed to improve urban design and connection to the I-290 (e.g. complete streets, enhanced pedestrian and bicycle amenities)?
Does the village oppose on/off ramps at either the Harlem or Austin interchanges that are reconstructed at a grade equal to, or above, the adjacent local street (e.g. Harrison or Fluornoy)?
In 2014, will the village officially oppose deficiencies in the planning process to date in order to reserve the future right to challenge the Environment Impact Statement?