Ike decision: cave in or push back?

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By David Moehring

If you can't push out … push up! That is the direction IDOT will present in their third public presentation, scheduled for early October. Now is the time for Oak Park, and communities neighboring the Ike, to decide whether to push back or cave in!

Given the village mandated that IDOT stay within the bounds of the current expressway "canyon," the IDOT planners have developed a creative way to jam in two-more lanes and extended on-ramps both in Oak Park and the Circle Interchange. Believing that vehicle congestion is actually a problem that can be resolved with mega-highway structures, the public will be exposed to early IDOT ideas, which assume the submissive decline of the residential communities like Oak Park, Forest Park, and Maywood. Most of us welcome the promise of being able to accelerate our travel — even if it may just be 2-3 minutes saved in a rush-hour commute. We know, however, residents also cherish the urban fabric of the communities they live in.

IDOT has self-evaluated the shortlist down to four options, all of which include adding at least one expressway lane in each direction. Despite Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's stated objective to increase the transit share of transportation commuters, all four schemes proposed by IDOT have been modeled to show resulting declines in transit ridership. This challenge has been known for some time, but is conveniently dismissed as planning moves forward.

The express rail easement that was previously designated is now converted to vehicle lanes. In addition, the unique left-lane on/off ramps at Austin and Harlem would now be converted into right-lane two-tier ramps that would fly over the expressway to meet up at a 20-lane (five per side) vehicle and bus intersection gridded with risky pedestrian crossings to dual CTA train stations.

The westbound off-ramp to Austin Boulevard would begin all the way by Central Avenue and provide a sky-bridge past Columbus Park. Below this off-ramp would run the westbound on-ramp from Central Avenue.

If this sounds complicated, that's because it is complicated. It could be considered the dreaded return of stacked roadways that some other regions eventually had the wisdom to destroy.

If you thought protracted transportation negotiation efforts have been successfully stunted, then you may want to take a look for yourself at the upcoming IDOT public meeting in October. Alternatively, each of the region's municipalities — including Oak Park — has been provided with IDOT's proposed initial expressway plans, three-dimensional views, and feel-good conceptual renderings.

Make your own decision: Side with a growing network of expansive expressways that serve the vehicle, or side with the preservation of communities that are served by a balanced network of public transit and vehicle venues.

Your voice and letters (or your silence) will eventually promote or redirect $385 billion transportation dollars that will be spent in the next 25 years.

Next up … where is the RTA?

David Moehring is an Oak Park architect and assistant director of capital programs at the University of Illinois Chicago. He has been involved in the Ike process since 2007 and an invited Corridor Advisory Group attendee since 2010. He has wrote an essay for Wednesday Journal called "Blue Line Extension: the 'Magic Bullet'" in June 2012.

Reader Comments

18 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Jim from South Oak Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2013 9:27 AM

I don't have documents on IDOT's raising the roadway. Read it in a Wednesday Journal report on one of the meetings.

David Moehring from Oak Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2013 8:18 AM

Do send me an email at dmoehring@consultant.com and I will scan requested info distributed from IDOT. The Municipalities have the information as well. IDOT's flaw in their work is limiting the models to CTA blue line extension -not considering express transit service to Medicsl Center and downtown from Metra or accessible Park and Ride locations. IDOT is competent vehicle mode planners, but elusive in multi-modal planning. A 2010 Tribune article confirmed west commuters seek transit options.

muntz  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 11:21 AM

@David-I see your point in that we might just be pushing the problem further down the highway as traffic will run into bottlenecks sooner when you increase capacity in one place and not in another. Currently, significant EB backups downtown occur at the NB Kennedy feeder ramp (1 lane). In theory, by adding one lane to the Ike alone, those backups would be longer and more frequent. But the Circle Interchange improvements call for an additional lane on the I90/94 WB ramp which should help.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2013 9:43 AM

David, could you please cite the IDOT statistics you're using? Also can you explain what this means: "0.3 to 0.5 percent reduction in vehicle hours of delay (daily)."? Jim, can you show me in IDOT's documents where they want to raise the roadway? Thank you.

David Moehring from Oak Park  

Posted: September 16th, 2013 10:41 PM

IDOT Statistics do not show improvement in congestion or significant reductions in travel time as suggested (see published percentages). There is substantial rush hour traffic feeding the Ike (which will unlikely change due to the high concentration of labor force comuting from the area.) This traffic will still be restricted to just 4 lanes from Central to the Circle interchange. An analogy is a funnel used to fill oil for an engine. You may widen the brim, but the spout is what sets the flow.

Jim from South Oak Park  

Posted: September 16th, 2013 2:28 PM

The references I've found say this: higher speed, more volume and more trucks increase traffic noise. If the added lanes increase speed and volume, then we're simply going to have more noise. An engineer can do the math on how much. Adding barriers cuts noise, and a lowered roadway is one way to do it. But IDOT wants to raise the roadway. And IDOT's sweeping ramps will give more noise a direct path to residential windows. Quality of life for local residents is not an IDOT priority.

muntz  

Posted: September 16th, 2013 1:41 PM

@Jim-I think your noise equation is a bit flawed. Does a truck repeatedly breaking/accelerating make more noise and create more pollution than the same truck travelling through at a constant speed? And those motorcycle guys are going to race at 2am if you add a lane or not as congestion is not an issue at this time. I think the bottleneck impacts our western neighbors far more. I often use Roosevelt from La Grange at the Hillside strangler and won't get back on (if at all) until 1st Ave.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 16th, 2013 9:18 AM

Of course adding extra lanes will help the problem. It should have been done twenty years ago. As for increased pollution check this link http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/01/05/how-traffic-jams-affect-air-quality/. Jim, I'd be happy to join you on a jaunt around Oak Park and show you how badly the overflow traffic is impacting the Village. We can start on Jackson then move to Harrison, Garfield, Roosevelt and Washington and streets in between.

Jim from South Oak Park  

Posted: September 15th, 2013 11:31 AM

@MichaelO. I live near the Ike. What Oak Park suffers is mega noise pollution. Noise = traffic volume X speed, and it'll only be worse with more lanes. Jerks on motorcycles who "wind it out" at 2 a.m. Truck engine braking (that "strafing" noise at 2 a.m.) OP pays for emergency services on the Ike, too: Fire, ambulance, cops helping state police. Join me some day to see that its not Ike traffic strangling OP streets. The path thru OP is so complex, it's still faster to take a clogged Ike.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: September 14th, 2013 10:45 PM

interesting how you think that the left lane on/off ramps are "unique". I'd say that merging into the fast lane is flat out dangerous. not to mention that during peak periods the folks eastbound on I-290 turning left at Harlem are stacked sometimes perilously close to the end of the on ramp. For the folks going west bound people are using the lane to cut in traffic. This leads to tailgating and accidents. Folks may consider this heresy, but getting rid of OP's left exits is a good idea.

Near the Ike  

Posted: September 14th, 2013 5:32 PM

Michael, so you're saying we should spend a massive amount of money on a questionable solution that may or may not (and probably won't) help with the problem and will probably result in more (not less) pollution, noise, and traffic in the end? #StupidWasteOfResources

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2013 5:12 PM

I simply don't get it. The Eisenhower is broken. The village is suffering for it and has been suffering for years, decades. Your best arguments to maintain the status quo are glib, disingenuous and the stuff of fairy tales. The issue for Oak Park is not commute time. It is the traffic swamping our streets -traffic that should be on the Eisenhower.

David Moehring from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2013 10:30 PM

A) IDOT calculations show only a 0.3 to 0.5 percent reduction in vehicle hours of delay (daily). 30-minutes of reduction in commute could only take place in a 3am commute from Naperville. B) see before and after images posted in the WJ paper. Even with the proposed right-hand exit, the proposed intersection convergence at Harlem and Austin will be even more dangerous to unattentive drivers and CTA-bound pedestrians. The proposed 1st Avenue ramp interchange are a braided mess sure to kill.

David Moehring from Oak park  

Posted: September 12th, 2013 10:07 PM

Try http://www.eisenhowerexpressway.com/ and information is available on web site www.CitizensForAppropriateTransportation.org

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 11th, 2013 8:22 PM

Driver who caused this deadly crash was DUI. He was also underage and on probation.

Change This Deadly Design  

Posted: September 11th, 2013 5:25 PM

Last week's deadly wrongway crash on the Eisenhower that killed two young women is at least in part due to the left lane ramp configuration. It was caused by a driver mistakenly turning left from Harlem onto the exit ramp from the eastbound lanes of the Ike and right into the oncoming traffic. It's surprising this doesn't happen more often. And this is the configuration that special interests in Oak Park are so keen to protect. And yes, why no mention in WJ or OP.com?

muntz  

Posted: September 11th, 2013 12:05 PM

I'm not a fan of dismissive and throw-away comments such as "2-3 minutes saved in a rush-hour commute" as we're talking 30+ minutes (think backups to Independence Blvd) and the resulting pollution, noise, and environmental impacts of repeated backups on OP. But this is the first I'm hearing of the "Columbus Park Flyover", which seems like overkill considering there is space for a regular right-hand side ramp with tree removal. Where is this proposal online?

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 11th, 2013 9:34 AM

Once again no mention of the destruction the current Ike bottleneck is wreaking on the Village. The quality of life for thousands of Oak Parkers who have to deal with the overflow traffic is being eroded daily. The Village has to spend more money to maintain roads that have become de facto frontage roads for the Ike. The left hand ramps are confusing and dangerous - see last week's fatal accident near Harlem. (Unfortunately, you won't read about it in the WJ. Why is that?)

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