Special Ike reconstruction meeting next week

Village board holding informational meeting at Irving School

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

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.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Posted: September 25th, 2013 1:22 PM

@IR-A bike path would have to occupy median space to provide a traffic-free path to be of any value. Maybe two separate paths in each direction on the outside space of the CTA right-of-way would work. Any other path parallel to the Ike would put riders in traffic and in very dangerous neighborhoods, which would not attract riders.

Interested Resident  

Posted: September 25th, 2013 12:52 PM

1) a proper extension of blue line beyond FPk would be magnet for car commuters. Lots of possiibilites: park and rides, multiple branches fan out like green line in Boston c 2) multimodal - get articulated express buses running on Ike and/or Madison/Roosevelt from downtown to west burbs 3) Have a wbike path parallel to Ikie - this could generate economic activity. I've had poeple visit me in OP via a bike from downtown. Bike paths are going up in other parts of Chi 4) integrate PACE CTA


Posted: September 24th, 2013 4:49 PM

"Ashamed to be from Oak Park", I hope that you will be a the meeting to say what you posted in person. I'll support you or hope you support me when I say pretty much the same thing. This obstruction has to stop. IDOT is going to keep the increased number of lanes in the Trench. Oak Park should declare victory and move on.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 3:52 PM

cont. That means thousands of out of village vehicles, vehicles from River Forest, Forest Park, Maywood, Elmwood Park etc., that should otherwise be on the Ike, are cruising through Oak Park as part of their daily commute.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 3:50 PM

Chris, there is no viable entrance to the eastbound Ike between 1st Ave and Austin. The Harlem entrance is one lane and quickly fills. Commuters may wait fifteen minutes before getting on the Ike and then wait another five + minutes to work their way through the squeeze. So a lot of commuters go through Oak Park to get to the Austin entrance ramp. They take Jackson, or Madison or Harrison or Garfield (this was acknowledged by a village engineer). cont.

Ashamed to be from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 3:12 PM

Quote:"Perhaps more pollution with slow traffic on the Ike but a lot quieter than when moving quickly. If folks from Dupage want to get downtown more quickly they should..." Seems a pretty accurate statement of OP's official position, but happily also destined for failure. Playing troll under the bridge harassing those who pass is not effective public policy. I'm embarrassed by the OP officials who espouse it on behalf certain small special interest groups. OP is alone in this and will fail.


Posted: September 24th, 2013 3:01 PM

If there is real interest in impacting the future of this project, don't waste your time at a meeting. Influence and result must be conducted with Harmon or higher level in relationship driven discussions. Yes, going to the meeting and venting will make you feel better but don't kid yourself. Deals like this are done by the time the public is informed - sorry to share how stuff really gets done...


Posted: September 24th, 2013 2:47 PM

Taking the "OP NIMBY yet pro-expansion" stance, can't we all agree that an additional lane, while not solving the OVERALL traffic problem, will resolve the issue for us in OP, that being traffic delays, associated pollution, etc? OP will no longer be the bottleneck...the Circle Interchange and I290/294/88 junctions will be. Cars will get thru our area faster and more efficiently, keep them off our arterial roads, and reduce congestion in OP. Isn't that a benefit to us? Just sayin'


Posted: September 24th, 2013 2:35 PM

@MichaelO-Thx. Now I see where the ramp 'flyover' concept came from. The report also recommends a "Complete Reconstruction and Modernization" of the Blue Line. If that's the case, why not alter its footprint? Move the BL to the northern edge of the trench, then have WB ramps extend over the rail. This would allow IDOT to stay in the trench, remove proposed flyovers, have right hand exits. But this would require creative thinking, something IDOT needs and I have in spades. IDOT, u know u want me.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 2:35 PM

Un-Sense, should we roll over and let folks from FarWestburbia who want to get to the city quickly but don't want to live near the city run over us on their way without our getting something for allowing them to do so? Why should OP and other communities west of us bear the brunt without getting anything to help ameliorate the effects. IDOT has been determined to add this lane from the beginning and is just going thru the required process til they get it. We need to push to get what we can.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 2:21 PM

MichaelO, there is no question that the Ike is broken but will the proposed solutions do much to fix it? I doubt it. One more lane will fill up in no time as more folks decide to drive rather than commute by other methods. I haven't noticed much traffic using OP streets as an alternative to the Ike (Roosevelt Road and Cermak perhaps) except for people who have OP as their start or end destination. Do you think folks are getting off the Ike at Austin and back on at Harlem or farther west?

Adrian from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 2:08 PM

MichaelO and anyone else interested in what other cities have done: Here is a link to the downloadable 2013 International Energy Agency report "A Tale of Renewed Cities" that suggests policies and discusses what 30 cities have done worldwide to create energy-efficient transportation systems. http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/name,39940,en.html Here is their press release with a summary: http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2013/july/name,39543,en.html

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 12:40 PM

muntz, here are couple of links that may help: http://eisenhowerexpressway.com/pdfs/r2%20alts%20descriptions.pdf and http://eisenhowerexpressway.com/pdfs/i290cag%2016%20presentation2013jul17071613final.pdf

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 12:17 PM

Adrian, can you provide the names of those other cities and regions who faced similar traffic problems?

Adrian from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 11:51 AM

So far there is no indication that IDOT's planning process takes into consideration the need to reduce GHGs and particulate pollution. Other cities and regions faced with similar traffic challenges have planned deliberately to reduce vehicular traffic (and thus pollution) by making excellent multi-modal travel the priority. The real problem here is not the 3-lane stretch but the lack of collaboration among all the government transit agencies in pursuing seamless, convenient multi-modal transit.


Posted: September 24th, 2013 11:26 AM

Can someone please post the four alternatives IDOT has proposed? Navigating www.eisenhowerexpressway.com is about as easy as, well, navigating the Eisenhower Expressway.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 10:49 AM

Once again. The Eisenhower is broken. The village is suffering for it and has been suffering for years, decades. The issue for Oak Park is not commute time. It is the traffic swamping our streets - traffic that should be on the Eisenhower.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 9:58 AM

Traffic really isn't that bad once you get East/West of Oak Park. 290s problems are absolutely caused by Oak Park narrowing the highway and the left hand entrance ramps. It sucks for those who border the highway, but the entire region can't be held hostage because of a few Oak Park homeowners. Something needs to be done and it can't be just extending the blue line.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 9:52 AM

And, unfortunately, in the four plans still under consideration I see precious little that makes things better for Oak Park and for the people living near the Ike. They look much better for those who live in the far western suburbs and all of the solutions are only about pushing more cars through the corridor without much regard for other means of travel or for the quality of life of those living or working alongside the highway. I would like to see a lot more in this for us than I see so far.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 9:45 AM

I think it is probably inevitable that we get a fourth lane in each direction thru OP whether or not it will help smooth out traffic. So the question becomes one of how sensitively it is handled as it cuts through the lower half of town, and what other amenities we get to encourage other means of commuting between the western suburbs and downtown. We won't get those things without applying pressure now. The rebuilt Ike should not make things worse for OP. We have to have some local benefits.


Posted: September 24th, 2013 9:34 AM

@Joel. Yes, imo, eastbound traffic just past Austin, briefly, moves better due to the addition of the 4th lane. Briefly. After that, well, then it's the same mess. But it doesn't matter, our politicians are working hard to have millions more drivers added every couple of years with increased immigration. Therefore, 3,4,5 lanes - "what difference does it make?" - congestion will only worsen.

OPcondodweller from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 9:00 AM

This is going to be a nightmare. My condo is directly in front of the Oak Park Blue Line stop. I suffered weeks of no sleep when they were doing construction in the middle of the night a few years ago. They should focus on updating/expanding the Blue line as well as making it safer so riders won't get robbed so much.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 8:44 AM

Traffic is congested because 3 lanes is not enough to handle the volume of cars. Compound that with the left hand entrance ramp and poor driving skills while texting and talking on cell phones, you have the fustercluck known as i-290. Public transit is not the solution because the vast majority are driving from far out areas without it so extending blue line won't help.

Veronica from Oak Park  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 7:10 AM

Not sure what extra lanes will do for anyone except add more pollution. You would think we would consider rail instead. I guess there are not too many creative people at IDOT.

Eric in the Passing lane  

Posted: September 24th, 2013 1:54 AM

if you want to decrease congestion on the Ike, here is a very inexpensive solution. Enforce the law that the inside lane is a passing lane and you should not be in it unless you are actively passing a car in the other lanes. paint angled lines in that lane with the words every half mile saying PASSING LANE. One car in the passing lane blocks the free flow of traffic, causes congestion for all. Besides spreading the traffic more evenly, accidents would be reduced from cars passing on the right.

Interested Resident  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 11:43 PM

I was in Hyde Park recently at the beach. I wanted to get up to Fullerton. I was amazed by the fast frequent express buses running north and south along lakeshore even on weekend. Why is OP and western suburbs so badly served by comparisn. You should be able to catch a bus at Dearborn and State and it should travel nonstop on IKE to Austin/harrisn and then onto Harlem and then to downtown OP Those pace buses are worthless they ride empty all. What a waste Need to integrate w/cta. DO IT Now

Joel from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 9:23 PM

Traffic east of OP is congested? No it isn't. I drove home from Oak Brook to Chicago for three years and my commute was 40 minutes to get past Austin and 10 minutes the rest of the way home. Going east or west, traffic basically disappears once you get pat the three-lane bottleneck.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 9:12 PM

Four lanes will still be clogged as soon as it opens. Already happens east of OP. Inside lanes are likely to be HOV or toll. Moving ramps to the outside will have a very negative effect on OP buildings and people close to the highway (w/in 2 blks to ea. side). Perhaps more pollution with slow traffic on the Ike but a lot quieter than when moving quickly. If folks from Dupage want to get downtown more quickly they should put the $ into building adequate parking at train stations or move east.

Daniel Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 7:38 PM

I don't see how keeping the three lane configuration would conceivably help Oak Park or anybody west of Oak Park. The traffic jams only increase air pollution in the communities the Ike traverses. The goal should be smoother, less clogged travel along the Ike (which an extension of the Blue Line might also help, but an origin and destination study is needed). Enough self-centeredness from Oak Parkers already. The Ike reconstruction affects far more than just Oak Park.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 7:23 PM

My "Map of Chicago of Rapid Transit Lines" shows the Garfield Park Branch going through Oak Park with stations at Austin, Lombard, Gunderson, Oak Park, Home and Harlem, and proceeding west to Bellwood as the Westchester - Maywood Branch, and then south to its terminus at Mannheim & 22nd St. in Westchester, where one can still evidence of its existence.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 6:48 PM

You're generally correct, Int. Res. But it wasn't the Blue Line, it was the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin railroad that went further west, both to Westchester and Aurora. The connection was at Forest Park terminus of CTA.

Interested Resident  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 6:29 PM

Reminder: The Village forced bad compromises on IL back in the 1950s - 3 lanes/not 4 in OP; ramps in middle not on sides; no ramps at Ridgeland or OP Ave. The original Village's wrong position will result in rebuilding cost, pollution, traffic jams, accidents, deaths (Look at the speeding traffic on Harrison going to Austin in morning!) Reminder: The Blue Line originally went much further west - CTA upgrade far more urgently needed than IKE fix.


Posted: September 23rd, 2013 6:23 PM

"The meeting will include updates from village staff and transportation planning experts." In other words, a totally biased group will conduct a kangaroo court on IDOT's proposal.


Posted: September 23rd, 2013 6:14 PM

There is zilcho "community benefit" to the Ike expansion. Getting 4 lanes west of Austin just means more traffic west of Austin. Have you noticed that the existing 4 lanes east of Austin are congested already? Are they going to have 5 or 6 lanes east of Austin? If not, then adding more west just means more messes everywhere. In the meantime, "Immigration Reform" translates in to millions of more future commuters. Chicago will be a mega-city and traffic will just keep getting worse and worse!

Central Oak Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 5:52 PM

I know that people in the area directly affected by the Ike are opposed to this plan. But have you ever polled people in the rest of OP? Maybe we need an information referendum on the topic. Or we can hold the meeting at Mann School, where the child was hit by a Maywood resident a few years back who had gotten off the Ike at Austin.

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