IDOT comes back to Oak Park with Corridor Advisory Group public meeting

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The Illinois Department of Transportation didn't make many friends in Oak Park last summer when it presented multiple options to residents about the Eisenhower Expressway renovation, all of which included widening or adding lanes.

IDOT assured local residents that its plans will keep the highway within its current footprint, but local officials remain skeptical.

Most recently, however, at the West Central Municipal Conference Policy Committee Meeting on Jan. 30, IDOT announced it will analyze an alternative that does not involve adding lanes to the expressway and would include better transit service. Oak Park Village President David Pope advocated this alternative at the meeting.

The Corridor Advisory Group last July left questions on the table for IDOT, and this Thursday, Feb. 21 in Oak Park, the group will present updates about the project.

The summer meeting lent itself to presentations about interchange concepts and development scenarios. This week's meeting, from 9-11 a.m. at the Carleton Hotel, 1110 Pleasant Street, will include updates but CTA representatives will also be present to introduce its Blue Line Vision Study. According to IDOT, the vision study is anticipated to be completed by the fall of 2013, and will be considered in IDOT's Eisenhower study.

During the July meeting, concerns about environmental impacts, better options for public transportation, and moving the left-side Austin Boulevard and Harlem Avenue ramps to the right side were raised, but mostly, residents cared about keeping the Ike out of their backyards.

Higher left-side ramps, lower road heights, an extra lane on each side, narrower lane widths, public transit expansion — these have been the hot-button items on IDOT's list since announcing its expressway redevelopment plan.

Pope explained that the concerns expressed by Oak Park and other Cook County community representatives on the policy committee were that all of the six options included a widening of the Eisenhower. Oak Park officials have said many times that not all options were being evenly reviewed.

"We're of the opinion that all of the alternatives need to receive fair and even-handed treatment in terms of the analysis," Pope said. "We thought it was inappropriate to have all six of the alternatives presuppose an added traffic lane in each direction, given that no analysis or evaluations to date have shown that to be required."

Oak Park officials have also advocated for more collaborative work with the CTA to extend the Blue Line but in a way that would encourage commuters to use public transportation more.

Oak Park resident Rick Kuner, co-chairman for the Citizens for Appropriate Transportation, a group that opposes the widening of the expressway, said he's more convinced than ever that expanding the Ike is a bad idea. He explained, among other problems, it doesn't solve the congestion problem, has severe environmental impact, and comes with a billion-dollar price tag.

Kuner recently prepared a brief from the citizens group regarding the Eisenhower Transportation Corridor about livability, which he explained is defined by mobility, accessibility, walkability, and sustainability. These are all key concepts he believes need to be taken into account by IDOT in any expressway project.

"Although widening the expressway from six to eight lanes adds capacity, it is not sufficient to meet the demand, and it will have serious negative impacts on adjacent properties in Oak Park and the other communities in the corridor," Kuner wrote in the brief. "A wider expressway does not bring us together — it separates us."

Moving forward, Pope said the policy committee wants the end solution be derived from objective analysis that takes into account the perspective of affected residents who live and work in the corridor.

Assistant Village Manager Rob Cole, who has criticized IDOT for not making documents available early enough for village leaders to properly review, said he don't know what will be the main topics of Thursday's meeting. He does know, however, that IDOT's decision to analyze at least one alternative is a direct response to the work of stakeholders in Oak Park.

Overall, he's glad the transportation group is willing to look outside its initial proposals but couldn't comment on what IDOT will be doing next until he learns more from the presentation Thursday.

For more information on the expressway project, visit

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2013 3:55 PM

Also, widening is two extra lanes or twenty thousand fewer cars a day that feel the need to cruise through Oak Park streets. Two extra lanes increases Ike capacity 33% through the squeeze. If Oak Park then puts more stop signs and lights to prevent the village from becoming a thoroughfare we'd likely see some serious benefits.

Also near the Ike  

Posted: March 19th, 2013 3:09 PM

MichaeloO I believe that section of Jackson is due for a repave & the installation of bike lane markings. Just FYI. Hopefully that slows Jackson traffic down. As for fixing a superhighway..."fixing" is wishful thinking. Widening is just widening. I suspect that even with the HOT lanes & all the L improvements in the world traffic will still be at a standstill most of the time.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2013 2:17 PM

It's time to widen the Ike. No bike lanes, no el extensions, no amount of wishful thinking is going to fix a crippled super highway. Bite the bullet. Get it done.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2013 2:16 PM

Last night, around 9:30, Jackson Boulevard between Harlem and Oak Park was flooded with angry, speeding traffic. Because the road on that stretch of Jackson is a shambles the noise was deafening. I went to find out why all the cars; usually that time of night is fairly quiet. Turns out there was a traffic jam on the east bound Eisenhower starting west of Des Plaines through Austin. (cont)

Also near the Ike  

Posted: March 19th, 2013 1:45 PM

Mark, perhaps it was the namecalling? Additional lanes won't help ease congestion...and if it's between investing money in roads and money in transit, continuing to strangle ourselves in gas fumes doesn't seem wise. Yes, I live near the Ike. Not everybody who disagrees with you is--what was your term? Mongoloid? Let the process play out. There's not funding for anything anyway. (And your beloved extra lane would probably be toll.)

Mark Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: March 19th, 2013 1:23 PM

Bruce, not sure why I'm not ready for "civil" discourse unless it's the fact that I disagree with you. Why doesn't your group mention the RTA study that found that improvements/extensions to Metra/Blue Line would have minimal impact to congection on I-290? Sure, It would be nice if more people rode bikes, teleportation would be neat, also. As far as the cost, it's falling apart, it's 50+ years old, why not upgrade the capacity?

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 24th, 2013 9:33 AM

Jim. Your statement about Maywood may be partly based on the high unemployment rate there. What we need is a Green New Deal so that folks can be trained and employed, like we did in the depression under FDR. I'm not saying that trains will eliminate the need for cars, but they offer a good alternative. The Orange Line was once a dream too.


Posted: February 22nd, 2013 9:37 PM

The "fantasy" ended in 1957? What fantasy? It was a REALITY. Until we destroyed it.

Jim from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2013 8:39 PM

Bruce. The fantasy of transit west of Forest Park died in 1957 when the Chicago Aurora & Elgin RR ended passenger service. The Prairie Path is the CA&E's "ghost." I can't imagine new stations or trains reviving ridership at 5th, 11th or 17th Aves. in Maywood. In the CA&Es heyday, commutes were east-west between Chicago and 'burbs. Now, everyone goes every which way; only cars do that with any degree of convenience. Sorry, the idea of transit west is great lore, but not in the 21st Century.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2013 4:29 PM

Chris: Good comment. In fact we know that track going west was taken out when the Ike was built. On the Blue Line we need to restore and upgrade all those stations that were closed and extend the line going west. We also need to beautify and put the latest technology into the stations and the trains, so that people feel safe and comfortable. That also means a better designed car than the new cars on the Green Line that were designed for folks that weigh 100 lbs to sit.

Chris Donovan  

Posted: February 22nd, 2013 2:01 PM

Bruce, The Dan Ryan has multiple lanes and the CTA Red Line runs through it, with plans to extend that el farther south. This proves that IDOT can do both, extend the Blue Line and add additional lanes to the IKE.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 22nd, 2013 1:55 PM

Well at least Mark Johnson used his name but I don't think he is ready for civil discourse. The Dan Ryan has 14 lanes and is still overcrowded sometimes. Look, in the second most populous county in the country it makes sense to have a top notch public transportation system. That's where we should be putting our money.


Posted: February 21st, 2013 3:54 PM

So the IDOT meeting was at 9am this morning? One thing is certain -- they really do not want any community input.


Posted: February 20th, 2013 9:00 PM

Mark, I'm with you except I think the Village is unwilling to work with IDOT rather than unable.

Cruiser from Army Barracks  

Posted: February 20th, 2013 6:15 PM

My hobbies are fast cars and fast women, that's why the guys in my car club call me the 'cruiser'.

Ed Anger from Trapped in Communist Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2013 6:06 PM

This is America. People love cars. Fast cars. And space to drive those cars. Tell the dope smoking, bicycle riding hippies to buy a Prius and let's add the lanes to the Ike!

Mark Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2013 4:42 PM

Am growing increasingly frustrated with Village's inability to work with IDOT instead of offering constant obstructionism. A deaf, dumb and blind person with one nostril should be able to sense the need for additional lanes on the Eisenhower. Statements to the effect that improvements to rail or rapid transit would eliminate need for the expansionj are the zenith of mongoloid reasoning. And yes, I do live near the expressway.

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 20th, 2013 2:31 PM

As the treasurer of Citizens for Appropriate Transportation I know that CAT has been advocating for not widening the Ike since 2002 when 300 residents met at Ascension Church. What makes sense is to upgrade the quality and length of the Blue Line so that it attracts more ridership and less cars. IDOT sometimes forgets that the "T" stands for transportation and not roads.


Posted: February 20th, 2013 2:18 PM

Damn, can't make a daytime meeting. Is anyone going to be there and express support for adding more lanes?

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