IDOT twists evidence to support expansion

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Tom DeCoursey

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I have read the IDOT propaganda document "I-290 Environmental Impact Statement. West of Mannheim Road to East of Cicero Avenue. Purpose and Need. September, 2011, Draft." Among other things, this document includes a detailed analysis of traffic patterns, traffic accidents, etc. I would like to highlight a couple of points that illustrate that (a) IDOT is determined to widen the Eisenhower Expressway, and (b) IDOT will twist every bit of evidence to support this predetermined conclusion.

First, the incidence of traffic accidents is highest at the entrance to the westbound Ike from Harlem Avenue although every interchange produces accidents. IDOT would like you to believe that the reason for these accidents is that the expressway has only three lanes instead of four. Anyone who has ever thrown caution to the winds and used this on-ramp can explain precisely why this location produces accidents, and the reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with the number of lanes.

This intersection was designed by a homicidal maniac! Four factors combine to make this entrance a death trap. First and foremost, there is essentially no space to merge into traffic. This grotesque design flaw is exacerbated by the fact that one must merge into the high-speed lane. The third factor is that the road curves left at this point, decreasing the visibility both for those merging and for left-lane drivers. Finally, to add injury to insult, there is a red light at the very bottom of the ramp during rush hours, forcing law-abiding citizens to merge into the high-speed lane from 0 mph!

If one were asked to design the most lethal traffic situation possible, I doubt that anyone could top this. Of course this intersection causes accidents — it was designed to massacre those who use it! That IDOT cynically uses their own poor design to argue that we should listen to their advice about widening the expressway reveals remarkable chutzpah.

A second point is that the document describes and illustrates rush-hour congestion of all arterial surface streets that feed into or parallel the Eisenhower. The implication is that expanding the Ike would alleviate this surface street congestion. This is pure fiction.

There are two relevant causes of surface street congestion. (1) The first source is traffic feeding into the Ike. Assuming the expanded Ike will carry more traffic means more vehicles are using the Ike and therefore streets that feed into the Ike will have more traffic than before. Worse. (2) Second, congestion due to vehicles using parallel surface streets (North, Lake, Roosevelt, Cermak) to avoid the Ike might improve temporarily if the expanded Ike were less congested. This will not happen because studies show that expanding road capacity leads to a proportional increase in use. Even IDOT believes this, because their "no-build" scenario projects only a 3% increase in Ike traffic by 2040 because it is already at full capacity.

Widening the Eisenhower Expressway hurts Oak Park by every possible analysis. Congestion on Austin and Harlem (feeder arteries) will be worse than ever. There will be more traffic flowing past Oak Park into Chicago, creating more noise and air pollution. Traffic on the inbound Ike from Oak Park into Chicago will increase, and the same four lanes, already horrendously congested, will be even worse.

That Chicago desperately needs vastly improved and expanded public transportation is a no-brainer.

Tom DeCoursey is an Oak Park resident who lives a half block from the expressway.

Reader Comments

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Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 12:18 AM

I love the fact that Rob Cole who has no clue of planning or engineering twists any report he sees into the sky is falling directly on all of the poor OP resident due to IDOT. How about the fact that IDOT will not widen the "trench"! Has the Village ever told this to its residents? I have not heard Rob Cole mention this at all. This is the main concern of most residents. What ever happened the Eisenhower Advisory Committee?


Posted: June 19th, 2013 8:28 PM

What I'm looking at is the latest immigration plan being debated in Congress which will expand our national population by about 30 million in the next 10-15 years. I'm sure that this will lead to more Ike lanes. The Ike was built when this country had about 175 million people (1960). We now have about 140 million more. And now we need more - per the politicians. Happy with the congestion and sprawl all around us? Well, it's only getting worse - unless you tell your rep to vote no.

Ready to Move Forward from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 6:03 PM

Speaking of twisting evidence, it's funny how the obstructionists always mention "widening" the Ike without acknowledging that NONE of the plans under consideration involve widening the Ike outside its current footprint, even if another lane is added. Given that's the case, we have no business presuming to dictate the number of lanes the professionals at IDOT decide to put in for the greater good of the region.


Posted: June 19th, 2013 5:02 PM

IDOT can expand the number of lanes without widening the trench. The fears that the library and conservatory will be destroyed are put to rest. The design of the right-lane exits/entrances should be left to the engineers to minimize any impact to as few properties as possible. In short, let's stop be so self-important about Oak Park, obstructing this any longer, and get on with it.

Ready to Move Forward from Oak Park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 11:09 AM

Funny, the uniquely lethal left lane ramps were the brainchild of a previous generation of Oak Park activists and armchair highway engineers. By all means have a talk with your fellow obstructionists, most of whom seem to be in deep denial over the inherent danger of the left lane ramps and even claim IDOT twists the data the other way to overstate their danger. In either case, a good argument for leaving highway design to IDOT and not amateurs with an agenda or an axe to grind.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: June 19th, 2013 12:06 AM

sounds to me like you make a pretty convincing argument for switching OPA and Austin from left exits to right ones.

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