By Anna Lothson
The Oak Park Village Board has called a special meeting for Monday, June 11, to allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to present information on what, if anything, should be done with the Austin and Harlem interchange ramps on the Eisenhower Expressway.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and will be held in the council chambers of Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St.
IDOT has been having ongoing discussion with Oak Park officials as part of its Environmental Impact Study, which is focused on developing and evaluating alternatives associated with the highway. Items like potentially widening the roadway in each direction and a potential CTA Blue Line extension have been among the discussions.
Monday night's meeting, however, will focus on the ramps, according Rob Cole, Oak Park's assistant village manager. Previous meetings involved very broad conversations, but this one will focus on what he said IDOT has called "problematic."
But Cole said village officials aren't sold on the concept yet.
"There is no real consensus indicating that left side ramps are inherently dangerous," he said. "They basically have an encyclopedia-sized argument that they are inherently dangerous, and we don't know if we agree with that. There is a lot of literature that doesn't support that."
Cole said spacing, instead of location, between the interchanges could be the main factor. There are many factors, he said, that account for safety and mobility. That will be part of one of the ongoing discussions, he said. Initial suggestions from IDOT are to look into moving the on and off ramps to one side or the other, instead of in the center.
Cole said IDOT has indicated that they plan on staying within the expressway's current "footprint," and not extend the area. That doesn't mean, however, that it would have no major impact on the surrounding properties, Cole said.
"There are a lot of significant issues and concerns that remain on the table," Cole said.
IDOT officials will be presenting conceptual drawings for the interchanges. Cole said drawings were presented to the village May 1, but he said the preliminary drawings were "terrible," since they lack context and don't provide a three-dimensional vision.
He said the village requested the drawings be improved before Monday's meeting, but said he had no indication if that would, in fact, happen.