By Anna Lothson
There's been plenty of chatter about the future of the Eisenhower Expressway. Here's the next chance for residents to get updated about the expansion project that has received harsh criticism from Oak Park leaders.
The Oak Park village board will hold a special meeting on Mon., Sept. 30, to brief the community on the status of planning for the Illinois Department of Transportation's proposed Ike reconstruction. The meeting is set for 6:30 at Irving School, 1125 S. Cuyler Ave. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
The meeting will include updates from village staff and transportation planning experts. A representative from the CTA also will be on hand to discuss how the project might impact the Blue Line and ways to improve service, including potential westward extension.
According to a village release sent out Monday, several options for easing congestion are under consideration by IDOT for when it rebuilds the seven-mile stretch of the Eisenhower between Mannheim Road and Cicero Avenue. The expressway narrows to three lanes as it passes through Oak Park, contributing to frequent traffic jams.
The release said IDOT recently winnowed potential reconstruction alternatives to four and says it will choose a final preferred alternative by late 2014. Although construction would not start for several years, village officials have voiced concern that an IDOT decision to pursue a specific plan would be difficult to undo.
Members of the village board and staff have attended 18 IDOT Corridor Advisory Group (CAG) meetings over the past four years on behalf of the community. The CAG is made up primarily of public officials and technical experts, with little participation by the general public. Former Village Trustee Rick Kuner also has engaged with IDOT in his role as founder of a local advocacy group, Citizens for Appropriate Transportation.
The village board has established as one of its top priorities mitigating negative impacts from Eisenhower reconstruction while also exploring potential community benefits. A special board meeting at Irving School is one of the board's strategies to engage residents around these goals.
IDOT is considering moving exit and entrance ramps at Harlem and Austin avenues to the right side of the expressway, closer to neighborhoods. Reconstruction also could bring wider bridges across the Ike to create more room for pedestrians, cyclists and perhaps retail activity. Integrating Blue Line improvement and eventual westward extension could be another benefit if handled correctly, village officials have said publically.
IDOT has scheduled its own public forums on the Eisenhower project Oct. 7 at the Marriott Hotel, at 625 S. Ashland Ave., in Chicago and Oct. 8 at the Proviso Math and Science Academy, 8601 W. Roosevelt Road, Forest Park.