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By Devin Rose
More than a year after first hearing about the plan, the Oak Park village board next week may finally begin to discuss a proposal to redesign Madison Street by reducing it from four lanes to three and creating more visible crosswalks and possibly bike lanes.
One of the main goals of the "road diet" proposal is to make the street safer, said Ron Burke, an Oak Parker and executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, an organization that encourages safe walking, biking and transit.
Crashes, mostly rear-end, occur on two out of every three days on the 1.5-mile stretch of road between Harlem Avenue and Austin Boulevard, Burke said. He wrote in a blog post for the Alliance that Roosevelt Road, which is three lanes, has 35 percent more traffic but 30 percent fewer crashes. Cars speeding and weaving on Madison make it unsafe to cross. Madison has 18,000 vehicles travel on it every day—the same as the two-lane Ridgeland Avenue.
"It's a road out of place right now," Burke said of Madison Street.
Other improvements envisioned by consultants would include clearer markings on crosswalks, wider bumpouts and added lights and signs for pedestrians, Burke said. The proposal also calls for a designated left turn lane that would hopefully cut down on the rear-end crashes.
A marked bike lane, which is pictured in the renderings, would be the icing on the cake for the project, not the reason for it, Burke's blog entry says. Tom Olis, a managing partner for Greenline Wheels on Marion Street, pointed out the improvements would still make the street easier to cross without the addition of a bike lane.
"It's not just an expensive bike lane project," Burke said.
The other main goal, Burke said, is to make the street more attractive to businesses. The three-lane configuration would slow cars down because there would not be the same "dash, brake and wait" at red lights, Burke's blog post said. That helps businesses get noticed.
The total cost for the full project including streetscaping amenities is estimated to be about $16.8 million, but Burke said not all of the project's proposed elements need to be done immediately. District 97 and the Park District of Oak Park recently presented a proposal to build a shared administrative facility on the village hall parking lot. In their presentation last week, one funding option for that was the use of about $6 million in funding from the Madison Street TIF. Burke said if that happens, "hopefully there is money left for the redesign."
Trustees last discussed the matter in April with consultants, and it will be presented again at their meeting Sept. 18.