Oak Park residents react to Madison Street redo

Comments are mostly positive on plans to narrow major thoroughfare


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Click here to see the full presentation.

Roughly 30 people showed up to a meeting, last week, to talk about the possibility of shrinking Madison Street in Oak Park down to two lanes. Reactions to the idea seemed mostly positive, and the village board is prepared to weigh in on the proposal in July.

Oak Park has between $4 and $6 million to spend on Madison, which it needs to allocate before the end of this year, so village hall hired a consultant in November to come up with a plan. Altamanu is suggesting that Madison go on a "road diet," which would mean losing two lanes of traffic in order to add bicycle lanes and wider sidewalks.

Altamanu hosted a public meeting at Percy Julian Middle School on Wednesday, June 1, looking to gauge the public's perception of the project.

Meredith Morris, 46, told Wednesday Journal she is in favor of anything that improves the aesthetics and commercial viability of Madison. But she hopes the village also has an economic plan to help attract businesses to the street.

"I have concerns about a build-it-and-they-will-come mentality," said Morris, who lives a block north of Madison on Lombard. "I very much hope that the village has an economic development plan to go hand-in-hand with this proposal, rather than assuming commercial enterprises will be attracted because of the beautiful streetscape."

Ron Burke, who lives a couple of blocks south of Madison on Wenonah, thinks the proposal has "many, many upsides." He likes the idea of adding bike lanes to the street, but thinks it's important that cyclists have at least 3 feet of clearance on each side.

He believes narrowing Madison will make it safer for all travelers and more viable for businesses.

"By slowing cars down, the drivers in those cars tend to notice the businesses along that roadway more so," said Burke, who is also head of the Active Transportation Alliance. "If you go zipping by at 40 mph, you don't really notice that there's a new chicken place that went in on Madison."

Gerald Lordan, director of personnel development for Fenwick, said for years the Catholic high school has been hoping to see more green space, parking and safer pedestrian crossings for its students. He, too, mentioned that "new chicken place," Chicago's Home of Chicken and Waffles, saying he'd like to see more eateries on Madison where Friars and their fans could walk to grab a bite after events. Lordan thinks shrinking the street could help with that.

But the plan doesn't do much to help the parking problem, at least not in a traditional way, Lordan said.

"If we're truly going to get business onto Madison Street, I think we have to make it bicycle accessible," he said. "More and more people are riding bicycles. And those of us who live in town know there's no sense driving anywhere because there's no place to park."

Oak Parker Brian Keyes, who is considering opening a microbrewery in town, said the plan would make Madison more attractive for businesses. He wonders, though, if it does lead to revitalizing the street, what happens to the cars?

"Let's say this is a success and we redevelop Madison Street," he said. "Now what do you do? Where does all this parking go? Does it go into the neighborhoods? There's just not a lot of space."

Of the dozen or so people whom Wednesday Journal spoke with, Vikki Peterson was the only one who seemed outright against the proposal. She thinks Oak Park should focus its spending on the residential alleys and streets littered with potholes.

Peterson questioned whether cutting out two lanes of traffic would improve the business climate on Madison.

"They think if they make it inconvenient enough, people are going to stop and shop," she said. "That's what they said. They want to eliminate traffic that just drives through. Is that really what we want?"

Oak Parkers still have until June 17 to comment on the plan, whether through email (planning@oak-park.us) or snail mail (123 Madison, Oak Park, IL 60302). Village Planner Craig Failor plans to gather the comments, along with preliminary cost figures, to present to the village board in July. He declined to share early cost estimates before trustees see them.

  Madison Street - Community Meeting

Reader Comments

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Posted: June 13th, 2011 3:10 PM

Grew up in Oak Park, moved away 5 years ago. During my 25 years, Madison has remained unchanged, it's an eyesore running through the center of town that creates a physical and mental divide, much like the IKE. The street needs a complete overhaul to reconnect the town and change perceptions as well as the feel. I really think the plan to reduce the lanes and have protected, inset bike lanes will give the street a boulevard feeling, rather than the strip mall highway feel it has now.


Posted: June 11th, 2011 6:36 AM

I agree with Jim. Madison Ave. was once the place to shop. My mother would tell me stories when she was a young girl living in the city. She remembers taking the train to Madison to shop and get her hair done where the "wealthy people" go. Back then it was 4 lanes. The village needs to concentrate on a plan to get more commercial, less bike lanes. And of course less housing projects.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 10:48 PM

Madison St. needs a future. The old strip looks tired and lost. These days it's up to communities to provide the stimulus for development. Businesses want concessions, variances, breaks and support. There's lots of competition. Malls house the big name retailers. High-end shops open in locations that cater to their desired clientle. Madison St. had a niche for many years. Today it is largely undefined. Duplicate the Forest Park mix? Build this and they will come? Low income housing? Bike paths?


Posted: June 10th, 2011 9:41 PM

Lets not forget peeps, Madison in FP has had 2 pedestrian deaths in the last 5 yrs. Not exactly what you want to aspire to.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 9:32 PM

Six years with little but a lot of drawings and endless discussions to show for it. For Madison, the village had a vision on day 1 in 2006, and again on day 2000 in 2011, but very little in between. What can they accomplish in six months that they could not in six years? Vision need plans, plans need execution, poor execution needs acknowledgement.

Belle from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2011 8:14 PM

I love this idea. I've witnessed a pedestrian hit on Madison. And think the traffic should be controlled. Forest Park also has two lanes. And it is absolutely beautiful. Pedestrians are respected. That's what we need

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 11:34 PM

Reducing Madison to two lanes will slow traffic on OP Ave which already has too much traffic in the morn and eve rushes. N/S traffic is reduced by the OP Ave turn lanes into 4 lane Madison. If Madison is converted to 2, less cars will be able to turn and OP Ave through traffic will be slowed by turning car backups. The result could be a need for No Turns at Mad and OP Ave during rush hour defeating the idea of attracting shoppers to Madison. (The mess does not consider the side street impact.)

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 11:03 PM

Craig Chesney  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 3:44 PM

Dumb luck

OP Resident  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 3:00 PM

How did C Chesney get around the 500 character limit?


Posted: June 4th, 2011 11:40 AM

Based on what happened yesterday, A head shop would be good on that part of Madison Street.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 9:36 AM

Something should be done, just wondering if this is a good idea to shorten the width of the road. See the problems with Madison in FP and Roosevelt rd congestion. Sorry I think the bike lanes should not be in this plan. How many do we need in this village. We need access to good Parking!!

Craig Chesney  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 8:51 AM

@OP Resident - That is a valid point, but the proposed plan is different than what Forest Park is like. The plan has one additional turning lane. This would obviously reduce back ups for some turns. I don't know if that is enough, I still wonder about bus traffic and UPS trucks that currently stop on Madison.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 8:15 AM

Anybody who thinks one lane of traffic on Madison is enough should take a good look at what happens to the traffic heading west on Madison at the intersection with Harlem. Even when traffic is light this intersection has a back up and cars jockeying to get into the one lane on the west side of harlem. Only works because of the many cars that turn north or south.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 12:47 AM

How fast do people really want to get home? Once this is built, people will recognize how easy it is to cross the street. We have a hospital and a couple of senior centers and a few schools adjacent to Madison and it is difficult to cross for a senior citizen a kid on a bike and families in general. Do people think there will be traffic jams like the IKE on Madison because of this? What's the problem? Mono means one and rail means rail--this ends our training.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 12:41 AM

The traffic being diverted to Washington will figure out that Madison is still a quicker route--nobody should be doing 40 mph in OP. The timing of the traffic signals will keep the flow of traffic moving. I doubt any driver will wait more than one red light to get thru each intersection. Harlem and Austin turning lanes are what backs up traffic and there is nothing OP can do about that. However, getting from one side of OP to the other won't change and it will be safer.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 4th, 2011 12:26 AM

John, you really provide an insider's take on development. Good stuff as always. Thanks for asking serious questions. Let's hope some answers are forthcoming. Trustees Tucker and Salzman should step up and go on the record.

Driver from Reality  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 11:19 PM

There are several businesses I go to on North Ave. in Chicago or Elmwood Park. The traffic is really heavy and fast and parking is terrible, but I go there because I like the businesses.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 10:34 PM

Will traffic and parking studies be completed before this street development is voted? Will a "real" business and marketing plan exist before the board votes? Has a chicken/egg test been done yet? That is; does compressing roadways or quality of businesses increase customer interest? Is this proposal in a village plan somewhere? If this is such a great idea, why did it arise only when the TIF money had to be spent? Shouldn't a an complete assessment of the 2006 Mad. Plan be completed 1st?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 7:41 PM

What's your point, Truman? I take you are against affordable housing for the working poor. Or at least not in your community. Do you recall that Innerfaith pledged to rent these units to employed people, persons with disabilities and seniors? I think they intend to make sure that this development provides an opportunity for Oak Park residents and people who work in Oak Park to enjoy the benefits of living in a safe and affordable environment. Their track record speaks for itself.

Truman Burbank  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 6:51 PM

these plans kind of remind me of my childhood home of Seahaven! Well, except Seahaven didn't have an SRO in the middle of town...

john j walsh from wooddale  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 5:49 PM

the rule is still the same you must spend the money for that year for something not needed or lose the money for next year

Another OP resident  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 5:16 PM

Monorail and bike lanes on Madison. The alleys and backstreet for large paintings, furniture loading.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 5:10 PM

I think the streetscape plan is a good step towards creating a pedestrian friendly area, with the safety of kids that attend both middle schools and Fenwick in mind. It is an attempt to curb the speed of traffic, create public areas, and make crossing and walking the Madison Street Corridor a safe and enjoyable experience. One benefit to this is creating a place where people will want to stop and shop. That being said, the plan needs to be incorporated into a larger scope for the area. This would include increased parking for existing businesses between Oak Park and Harlem (think New Reboza and Mama Thai). We should use existing lots for shared parking. An example would be using the D97 lot on Home Ave for the Madison (Circle) Theatre during off hours and weekends. The slowing of Madison will result in more traffic on Washington. There will be the same need to provide large crossing areas for middle school students on Washington as there is currently on Madison. If this area becomes a destination for people around town and in near by towns, more parking than called for by ordinance may be needed.

Craig Chesney from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 4:51 PM

My first reaction was this plan makes no sense. So I attended the first meeting. At this meeting a resident asked that traffic volume be verified to assess feasiblility of the road diet. This was provided at the second meeting. Madison traffic has 1/2 the traffic of Roosevelt and North. It is more similar to Ridgeland and Oak Park. The thought is that one lane and a turning lane could accommodate current traffic.

Christos Haralambidis from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 2:30 PM

I went through the presentation page by page. I think the Option A is a great idea. We should use the money for this idea. The problem is enticing business to the strip. Also, from what i have heard, City Hall is not very easy to work with compared to ***Forrest Park*** there i said it.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 2:23 PM

I agree, crossing Madison is a not fun, but I am not convinced reducing lanes is the answer. RF does a lot to make it convenient to cross the street using pedestrian crossing zones but the cars do not pay much attention to the peds. How about crossing bridges with elevators. It could be a good link of the north and south sides.

pn from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 1:51 PM

I think it's a great idea. Yes, Madison is a business street, but it does run through a residential area. Crossing Madison (even at the stop lights) is putting your life into your own hands. Slowing it down to two lanes makes it safer for everyone. It should be a street and NOT an alternative to the Ike.

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 1:34 PM

@Gary: "Epic fail???" Dewwwd...cewl turn of phrase...In any case, enjoy the "safety" of your metal box. Me, I will enjoy the eco-freedom of my bike! Toodles!

Brian Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 1:12 PM

Oh... but DO get rid of the horrible sign in the middle of the sidewalk. It is an enormous mostly blank sign that people almost walk into repeatedly. What is the point of that? I highly doubt you'll be able to replace it with a tree though like they did in the presentation. Another thing about the presentation... is they try to make things look better by making it spring. It gets green ... guess what... during the spring!

Brian Smith from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 12:53 PM

Terrible ideas, beautification is not a bad idea, but reducing the number of lanes is bad bad bad. Traffic on it is bad enough as it is.... with one lane each direction it is going to be a nightmare.

Gary Numan  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 12:09 PM

@Violet: Just what we want going down Madison: People on their bikes with cargo trailers and flatbeds hauling new couches and artwork. Sounds real convienent. And realistic too! Epic Fail as people feel safest of all...in cars.

Jack Casey  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 11:32 AM

I would trade in my three-piece suit for a ten-speed and the streets

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 11:23 AM

@Gary: Breaking: I COULD carry an easy chair or end table in my cargo trailer, plus I have seen flatbeds on the back of bikes where you can haul all sorts of junk. DUH.

Peter Appleton  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 11:22 AM

I say add a grand movie theater.

Gary Numan  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 11:16 AM

@Violet: Breaking: Can't carry a large piece of artwork or a couch in a basket or backpack. Duh.

Violet Aura  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 11:10 AM

@Gary: Breaking: They have just invented these new-fangled devices called BASKETS and BACKPACKS. LOL

Lyle Langley  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 11:01 AM

The monorail sounds more like a Shelbyville idea...

Mr. McGuire  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 10:37 AM

I have One word for you: Monorail

Gary Numan  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 10:14 AM

If people bike down Madison, how are they going to carry home all the cool stuff they are supposed to buy from the stores that will be there?

Another OP resident  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 10:00 AM

I think it would have been cool to make nice wide dedicated bike lanes on Madison only rather than the ones they squoze onto Div/Aug/Chgo which tend to make cars swerve into oncoming traffic.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 9:56 AM

Larry, why are you singling out liberals for spending excesses? Are you old enough to remember that the nation's budget was balanced when Bill Clinton left office? George Bush and the GOP are responsible for unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy, an unfunded prescription drug plan and two illegal wars that they kept off the books. Add in the no-bid contracts that Dick Cheney steered to his cronies and you wind up with this financial mess. We can debate the issues but honesty is essential.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 9:56 AM

How about Segways for ALL Oak Parkers?

Another OP resident  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 9:54 AM

That's right. Since one of our nicknames is "Oak No Park" why can't that be remedied by turning some of those underutilized lots into parking for residents and guests? Silly me - I'm sure the answer has to do with money. Is it the Plan Commission's job to do urban planning? Who's in charge here?

OP resident  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 9:49 AM

It all looks very pretty. Just one question - having spent years supporting high density condo development - where does the village think all the traffic will go? Fewer lanes does not mean fewer cars on the road. More likely it will mean more traffic backups and more cars on secondary and largely residential roads. A better plan would be more parking in the area so that drivers have a place to put their car when they want to shop or check out a new business.

a big fan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 7:34 AM

I think this is a beautiful plan; I've lived both south (500) and north (300) of Madison, and it's a difficult street to get across, ugly, and worst of all, is a 290 cut through. I frankly think that all the streets in Oak Park should have a 25mph max ENFORCED speed limit, plenty of stop signs and stop lights to discourage people cutting through to the West side or Forest Park. We live in a residential/small business area with a weak tax base; that's not going to change. This plan makes it safer

Mike from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 5:32 AM

If Oak Park wants to promote mass transit, they should make it easier to park near the Green Line stops at Austin and Ridgeland. Posted time ranges in terms of clock time and number of hours prohibit parking near the the train stops during business hours, so it's difficult to take the train to Chicago for business functions and light shopping. And, it's unsafe to lock your bike at the train stops, - bikes get stolen from the racks all the time. Oak Park's Green Line position is anti-green.

Larry from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 4:43 AM

The last time I checked the speed limit is 30 mph. Are these people crazy? Has anyone coming east through Forest Part into Oak Park on Madison been caught at the light for tree or four lights? Get real people. Next, people will say the traffic is to slow and there is more smog. Roosevelt road is already being narrowed. Lake is narrowed. More people are just trying to get home than out lolly gagging around. What a waste of money. Well, that's liberals for you. Spend spend spend. How about save.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: June 3rd, 2011 1:36 AM

June 6, 2006 "The public process to create a community driven plan for the future redevelopment of the Madison Street Corridor from Austin Boulevard to Harlem Avenue has now been completed and adopted by the Village Board. Drawings are not plans! Where is the strategic plan that addresses the corridor as a single entity and not a bunch of make shift projects to make sure the TIF money gets spent? No more TIF money should be spent until the village provides a accounting of the last five years

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 11:39 PM

The Village Board has been promoting the idea that we leave our cars at home and walk or use bikes, public transportation and shared rides to get around town. It's all about living "Green" and reducing our carbon footprint. What concerns me is how drivers will react as more people pedal thru traffic. It's pretty miserable right now. Sharing the road is sometimes a hit or miss situation. We may need to have a period of strict enforcement of road rules for both driver and cyclist for this to work.

Mac from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 11:24 PM

This plan for Madison is about as feasible as the mall on Lake Street was years ago. We saw how well that went. When did we become the biking mecca of the Midwest? Bike lanes on Chicago, Division and now Madison. Really! Is Roosevelt next? or Oak Park, or Ridgeland? Home? People have biked for generations in Oak Park without impeding the flow of traffic or inhibiting business growth and development. Give me a break.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 11:06 PM

Alberg provides us with a listing of "Done Deals" that decribes Whiteco as a fiasco. Trustee Ray Johnson has stated that the building is 85% occupied and sales tax revenues from Trader Joe have been significant. What's the real story? Has Whiteco actually been a boon or a bust?

Tom from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 10:52 PM

Reducing Madison to 2 lanes won't stop peoples needs to go east to west and west to east, you'll just redirect the route many drivers will take; and with a "slower" Madison St., impatient drivers will turn to Washington, Randolph, and Jackson Streets, and make those streets, which are residential, much less safe.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 9:33 PM

I'm glad to see anything that will make Madison better. I vehemently disagree with OPs stance that if we make it harder and harder to park cars people won't use them. They will...they'll just shop and entertain themselves in places where there is ample parking - like Forest Park for example.

Alberg from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 9:32 PM

How stupid can we get?? I thought I saw how stupid in the High School Parking Garage, then in the Whiteco fiasco, then the Downtown Hotel and lately the Madison Street Affordable Housing project. All "DONE DEALS" before they were announced. Now we are building bike lanes on the busiest streets instead of trying to separate bike and car traffic for everyone's safety. A destruction of the only wide Oak Park street will only deter economic development in an area that needs it. Another DONE DEAL.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 9:23 PM

This isn't about traffic jams. The idea is that drivers traveling through an area are much more likely to take notice of restaurant or store if the speed is reduced. We've all glanced at a local establishment while stuck in traffic & thought, "I never realized that place was there!". We need a new approach to bring Madison St. back to life. There are good places up and down the strip but a lot more needs to been done. As it exists presently, Madison is a bypass for some drivers. Who wants that?


Posted: June 2nd, 2011 7:31 PM

Come on. Spend money to reduce traffic flow on one of the busiest east/west routes so people can see the businesses that aren't there. My business experience says that businesses need traffic and parking to succeed (given they have a viable business concept for the area). Let's talk about sourcing the right businesses for that area and provide parking rather than creating traffic jams.

OP Resident  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 7:21 PM

I'm sure John J would have phrased his comment differently if he had thought about the reality of being homeless. There is no point in cracking wise about another person's unfortunate circumstances. There are too many children who don't have a roof over their heads or know where or when they eat their next meal. Please consider the plight of the poor before you toss out a one-liner. Disagree with the Madison Street plan but don't make someone else's misery your Happy Meal.


Posted: June 2nd, 2011 6:48 PM

I can't say that it's a "good plan" because I don't really know the details. I do, however, love the idea of it. I'm a walker not a driver, and I don't think that reducing the flow of thru traffic would necessarily have a negative impact on businesses in the area. You may not want to take Madison to the next town, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't patronize the stores on Madison.

Paul Obis, the dad from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 6:30 PM

I don't like this idea. I agree with "Driver". I often take Madison instead of the IKE because it's often faster. Why reduce traffic flow? I seriously doubt that the larger businesses on Madison, e.g. Jewel, Walgreens, McDonalds, would like this idea. Of course, it would make going to Village Hall more difficult. Perhaps this is what the boneheads in office are counting on.

john j walsh from wooddale   

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 6:29 PM

what a waste of money this has little chance of bringing in business use some of the money to buy foreclosure houses maybe for the homeless who would maintain them

Warren from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 6:00 PM

To get more eateries on Madison, the Village would have to make more liquor licenses available.

RichF from Oak Park  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 5:36 PM

Isn't adding bike lanes on Madison almost like putting in an expressway for stolen bikes to disappear into Chicago quicker?

Mark J. Pellettieri  

Posted: June 2nd, 2011 4:53 PM

This is fantastic! The colored walkways and paths are key to safe and friendly traffic of all kinds. I'm glad to see this thoughtful design!


Posted: June 2nd, 2011 4:40 PM

Has anyone ever tried to drive down Madison in FP in either direction during rush hr? From Des Plains to Harlem. Not a pretty sight. Almost as fun as Oak Park Ave from Pleasant to Lake St. in either direction during rush hour. The Madison St traffic will have to go somewhere?


Posted: June 2nd, 2011 4:20 PM

Madison's road width is the big difference between OP and Forest Park, but it is harder to start over as opposed to its always having been that way. Good luck!

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