Oak Park village board discusses the Ike, IDOT considers shortening CTA Blue Line

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

For years, the state has been exploring ways to relieve congestion along the Eisenhower Expressway, everything from an extra lane to extending the CTA Blue Line. Now, apparently, one of the ideas is shortening the rapid transit train, so it would end at Ashland and not make its way through Oak Park.

The notion came up on Monday, as the Oak Park village board discussed the future of Interstate 290. Village officials slammed the idea of shortening the Blue Line, and said Oak Park should speak out as the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) weighs its options.

"It's a pretty amazing concept, considering this was the first freeway in the country that integrated mass transit with new highway development," said Village Manager Tom Barwin. "And the notion of undoing it rather than extending it is probably something that would have a few people turning over in their grave."

IDOT held a public forum back in May, hoping to gather input on future plans to revamp I-290, part of a proposal that was first hatched in 2001. They plan to keep gathering input until 2013. But IDOT has pointed out in the past that the "Eisenhower corridor," first opened in 1960, is antiquated and in dire need of rethinking and repair.

The state doesn't currently have plans to expand the expressway, but they're currently assessing the alternatives, such as extending the Blue Line west.

Rob Cole, assistant village manager for Oak Park, said IDOT first brought up the idea of shortening the Blue Line during a July public meeting. The suggestion would involve stopping the train at Ashland, near the University of Illinois at Chicago, and replacing it with a rapid-transit bus.

Rick Kuner, a transportation planner and former village trustee who has followed the process from the beginning, said the idea "makes no sense." He believes travelers would be less inclined to take public transportation if they have to switch modes en route. IDOT has left a slew of questions unanswered, he added, such as where the bus line would end or where the stations would be located.

"From my point of view, hands down, the worst alternative is one that would eliminate seven or eight Blue Line stations and replace them with bus rapid transit," Kuner said. "There are all kinds of technical flaws with that, let alone economic impacts."

Cole gave a brief presentation to the village board on where things are with improving the Eisenhower corridor. Trustees held off on a detailed discussion of what actions Oak Park should take in relation to I-290, which they plan to do in the coming months.

Still, some board members took shots at the idea of shortening the Blue Line. Trustee Ray Johnson called such an idea "draconian" and questioned whether Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel would support it. And Trustee Bob Tucker compared adding more lanes to the highway to the country's obesity problem.

"It seems like it's a tremendous battle to fight this mindset that to combat this weight problem, we just buy bigger pants," Tucker said.

Meanwhile, local groups monitoring IDOT's plans are hosting a meeting from 9 to 11 a.m., Sept. 29, at the Carleton Hotel, 1110 Pleasant St., to talk about the latest developments in the discussion.

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CTA Gray Line Project from Lisle, IL  

Posted: November 10th, 2011 3:03 AM

I thought I had heard some IDIOTIC ideas before - but I guess I just don't have a vivid enough imagination. Is IDOT being secretly bribed by AAA??? Remember GM, Big Oil, and the Streetcars. Since it's so economical to construct and operate - we should abandon ALL the 'L' and Metra Lines, and replace them with BRT - the "Wave of the Future". In fact, the U.S. should abandon ALL Rail Lines (freight and passenger) - and add multiple lanes to all our roads and highways.

BPJ from FP  

Posted: September 30th, 2011 8:58 AM

i really with they would consider running express trains from Forest Park or Harlem or OP. Seems like if you're going to have a big transit center at the end of the Blue Line anyway it would make sense. Plus it would really encourage more people from outside the Blue Line area to drive to the transit center, park, and take the train in--since it would take half the time

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 29th, 2011 2:34 PM

. . . perhaps the compensation fund should come off the top of the RTA budget since converting the Blue Line to bus service is their idea.

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 29th, 2011 2:31 PM

Converting the Blue Line to a lesser form of transit constitutes a significant "taking" in the form of reduced property values arising from loss of access to the amenity. Property along the Blue Line is valued what it is because, in part, of the Blue Line. Take away the Blue Line and you take away the value. I hope there is a plan to compensate all property owners within a 1/2 mile of what would become the "former" Blue Line. The value of a bus stop is not even close to that of a rail stop.

Samuel Adams Lager from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 5:52 PM

Mr Lauber, we can only hope that the Tea Party and those who believe in liberty will soon come to power in Illinois. Contrary to what's put out there by the wacko's at MSNBC/CNN, and the drive-by media, the Tea Party is about effective, efficient, and yes, smaller government for all. It's about getting rid of incompetance, as shown by IDOT.

Say What  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 5:26 PM

How Tea Party-ish can you get? I think Ol' Danny Boy Lauber forgot which party runs the State of Illinois.

JEFF SCHROEDER from Oak Park   

Posted: September 28th, 2011 5:05 PM

Highway subsidies are generous because motor fuel taxes are "generous".

Teresa Powell  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 4:41 PM

Subsidies for highways are generous; not so for public transit. If the kind of money being spent on asphalt was dedicated to transit services, just imagine... BTW, it was the IDOT folks who proposed the BRT. Village supports Blue Line extension.

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 4:31 PM

Unless the CTA has ridership data showing that Blue Line ridership west of Ashland is really low, it's simply insane to suggest closing the Blue Line west of Ashland. As a former senior planner for Oak Park, I am simply astounded the IDOT would suggest such a backwards measure. No wonder Chicago has the second worst rush hour in the nation. We seem to do all we can to discourage the use of public transportation. How Tea Party-ish can you get?

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 4:27 PM

Alex F Burchard raises an important - and true - concern: BRT is far more expensive to operate than rail. Annual transit funding crisis, including threats (and actual) reductions to service arise from operating expenses. It's rather ironic that the agency responsible for financial oversight (RTA) would advocate for an alternative that *may* be cheaper on the capital side, but is *clearly* far more expensive on the operating side - the side where financial ends never meet.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 3:54 PM

@Vince Bray: No whining zone? LOL, could have fooled me. It's one of the whiniest places on the Internet.

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 2:55 PM

DuPage County will never . . . well, some DuPage communities have actually expressed support for it, including Oak Brook and Lombard. Just like transportation needs, attitudes change over time. Sometimes, though, changes in policy (and investment strategies) lag severely behind changes in attitudes and needs. This is the case here - things have changed dramatically, but the state DOT is stuck in the 50s. Expansion is a non-solution.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 2:53 PM

Practical Guy, visit some towns in Dupage. You don't need to have public transportation to give criminals access to Dupage. They already live there.

Practical Guy  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:57 PM

Dupage County will NEVER allow the Blue And Green lines to be extended out to them. Too much crime an mayhem follow. Sad, but true.


Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:53 PM

I've thought about this many times as I've been stuck in traffic on the Ike, and I've always thought that it would benefit the western suburbs if both the Blue and Green Lines were extended. I know that I surely would have taken the blue line in to work had it gone all the way out to Elmhurst or Oakbrook. Opening new lanes and/or a congestion charge probably won't be effective. I know it's a long shot, but perhaps converting the blue line into a full subway?

Jim Mariner  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:52 PM

I meant "should"

Jim Mariner from River Forest  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:50 PM

They sould leave the Blue Line as is and add a bike lane. There is room for that.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:50 PM

Sounds like the kerfuffle is the board diverting attention from the development issues.

Tim from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:45 PM

I think IDOT is going to take into consideration the thousands of drivers who live west of Oak Park rather than those of us who will be inconvenienced by the Blue line ending at Ashland. Unfortunate for us, but more realistic for them. Still, if being in LA taught me anything, 12 lane highways do not stop congestion.

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:37 PM

Phil of Ideas: It appears that the RTA is the source of the suggestion to convert the Blue Line to a bus. I wonder if they are suggesting the same for all CTA rail in highway right of way. I just checked the online board packets and the letter from RTA advocating for the alternative is page 28 - presented by RTA's "Senior Deputy Director, Planning and Regional Programs."

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:30 PM

C'mon, Chris. Sense in trying to accommodate cars on I-290? The truth is that there would need to be ten lanes plus to accommodate the cars on I-290, and even then the highway would just fill-up again and return to a congested state. What the state proposes is not only wildly insufficient if one accepts the faulty notion that expansion will help, but they are also intending to remove a lane of general purpose traffic east of Austin to accommodate the managed lane. Expansion is a non-solution.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:20 PM

I take the Blue Line to work every day, and it would be a HUGE inconvenience, but i see the sense of taking over a large portion of land for the tens of thousands of cars that travel on the Ike. It would suck, but i see IDOT's point. I personally think they should lessen the right of way space on the blue line. there's gotta be another lane they can steal from there(on the north side of the train tracks).

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:17 PM

When you do the math and realize that from Forest Park to Austin, the vast majority of riders get on the Blue line. Until we reach the Medical Center, a couple here, a couple there get on. It would inconvenience a few thousand riders, mostly from Oak Park/Forest Park, while allowing more lanes in the Ike. It makes perfect sense.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:07 PM

Yes, cutting the Blue at Ashland is stupid and probably a negotiating stunt. Frankly, the Ike has zero effect on my OP life. I use it, sometimes skirt around it, but all and all I can live with it. Should it be expanded. It would give us 10 years before suburbia says it needs to go from four lanes to five. Ten years later six. Expansion does not work. Expand the Blue line west? Who is going to pay for that? I favor delay-delay. Construction is a pending nightmare.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 12:35 PM

Jeff Schroeder - excellent point.

Phil of Ideas  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 11:48 AM

There is no source for the idea to close the Blue Line. It was made at the IDOT hearing. Perhaps it was a rep from a bus manufacturer. The story certainly doesnt indicate it was made by anyone in a position of power. Get some perspective, or just use it to slam the president as Q did. Hey Q - an apostrophe indicates possession, not plural.

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 11:24 AM

" . . .but perhaps IDOT is just trying to make a point." That may well be, but the point being made is that despite decades of learning we continue to make the same mistakes over and over. Highway expansion no longer works - it does not solve congestion, it does not increase safety, and it does not improve regional connectivity. All the while, adding capacity escalates the adverse impacts associated with highway operations. It is not just a no-win strategy, it's plainly a losing strategy.


Posted: September 28th, 2011 10:15 AM

Have they lost their minds? Have they considered how many people depend on the Blue Line to get work? Have they considered that the 'L' runs thru rain, snow, etc., not so much buses. Have they considered how expanding the blue line, update it, have it run consistently just might lower the traffic on 290? This is one of the looniest ideas I have heard in at least a day from our government. Any of these genius' depend on public transportation?

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 10:10 AM

Obviously, closing the blue line would be a step in the wrong direction, but perhaps IDOT is just trying to make a point. You can't have it both ways. We in Oak Park want to enjoy both the blue line and the 4 lane portion of the Ike that runs to our east. But we would also deny better transporation to other taxpayers who live to our west. Thus, we will continue to get the through traffic that endangers our school children.

R U Kidding? from a place that recognizes that we're in the 21st century  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 9:27 AM

It is noteworthy that the *RTA* provided public comment to IDOT stating the following: "Converting the transit service in the I-290 corridor from rail to high performance bus may have some merit . . . Accordingly we would like to request that IDOT model a high-performance bus alternative in the I-290 corridor (either managed lane or dedicated lane service) as a replacement for the existing Blue Line." What is RTA thinking??

Vince Bray from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 8:10 AM

My son is a wheelchair user. One of his favorite places in Chicago is Millenium Park. So if they implement this he would have to call the overburdened paratransit system, schedule a trip downtown & would be then be tied to the schedule he set weeks ago? Or we have to take him down there & pay $15 to park under the park? I would take Rick Kuners comment that this makes no sense a step further & say this is ABSOLUTE lunacy. Yeah IDOT, lets hobble our free wheeling wheel chair users. Good Idea!

Vince Bray from Oak Park  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 7:42 AM

Chris: This is a no whining zone.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 5:36 AM

IDOT has consistently shown that their only real interest is in building and maintaining roads. This is just an extension of that misguided interest, but one that could seriously damage the quality of life in south Oak Park and the other communities served by the Blue Line. I applaud VOP/Board efforts to organize those OPers with an interest in this issue and provide leadership to shut the proposal down before it goes anywhere.

Brent G Borgerson from Oak Park (Of Course)  

Posted: September 28th, 2011 1:00 AM

Ya got to be kidding?

Vince Bray from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 11:11 PM

IDOT is missinag an I, as in IDIOT. Why would anyone even suggest shutting down such a valuable resource. We should extend it further into the burbs. If it bugs them that much, they should bury it & make it another subway.

Chris from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 10:38 PM

I spent a year arguing against the Comcast development (proposed, now ironically, due in large part to a transit rich location) only to be publicly lectured by several board members on how the views of much of our neighborhood were inappropriate and misguided. Now IDOT wants to shut down the Blue Line and the Village Board is encouraging residents to be vocal and engaged. So which is it, Village Board? It seems like you only value our opinion when it is convenient to your agenda.


Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:56 PM

The blueline draws professionals to live in south Oak Park for the easy transportation to downtown and Rush hospital. It also keeps the property values up in the area. Most importantly, people of all walks of life need good transportation. Oak Park cannot help itself from sticking its fingers into everything.

Alex F Burchard from Chicago  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:44 PM

Q from Oak Park, BRT Costs more money to operate than Rail Transit, so Replacing existing rail (which's biggest obstacle is the initial capital expense of construction) is about the dumbest thing you could possibly do for the transit agency. Increase operating costs while decreasing level of service. It's just Stupid. It isn't even a short term solution, let alone a long term one....

Paul Rubio from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:42 PM

I would like to join my voice with those who are against shortening the Blue Line to Ashland. A bus might be okay, but I feel that the Blue Line is a great asset to those of us in southern Oak Park to have easy access to downtown Chicago, as I've seen during each of the numerous times I've used it to get downtown, especially when I come home from school. Shortening the Blue Line is a bad idea.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:38 PM

Pratical Guy, you made a good funny point, but the buses were running so I don't think it slowed down the people from Lake Forest coming in and doing their mischief.

Pratical Guy  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:35 PM

I'm for extending both the Blue and Green lines further west. Let some other town deal with all the ne'er-do-wells that seem to proliferate at the end of both lines. I remember back in the 90's when the Green Line was shut down for a few years. I actually felt safe and did'nt have too look over my shoulder constantly. I know the cops sure appreciated it.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:32 PM

If you listened to Obama's speech the other day, you know that he said African American's should stop whining, take off their bedroom slippers, put on their boots and start marching.


Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:31 PM

IDOT is misspelled. There's another I in there. And Mr. Obis, no, I believe that it's your local idiots in OP who want to narrow Madison Street.

Galen Gockel  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:27 PM

No one has mentioned one obvious drawback, and that is shutting down L stops in African American neighborhoods from Ashland to Austin, so that Caucasian drivers can speed west to DuPage County. Where is Congressman Davis on this, whose congressional office near Homan/Arthington Avenues would be affected?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:23 PM

Public transportation is not a big money maker and seems to be in the red most of the time. By removing up to Ashland will save operating expenses and during a recession, depression or whatever you would like to call it, is a good way to keep the system going. But, the bigger problem is you start taking away other lines and instead of fixing the problem, people take the easy way because they aren't qualified to fix it.

Thankful I work in Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 9:18 PM

Really? Gas prices are through the roof, people are trying to take alternate forms of transportation to work to AVOID driving, and really, from Blue to Green is at least a mile walk, depending where you live. So WHY does IDOT think it's a good idea to ADD congestion to an already overcrowded roadway while REDUCING the most efficient way to get into and out of the city? Who knows. Are we sure someone didn't leave an extra "i" out of ID(i)OT?

David Olson from Berwyn  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 8:21 PM

I hope this proposal never materializes. Shortening the Blue Line would only add more west suburban cars to the Eisenhower. That seems a stupid solution to congestion problems on the Ike. If anything, the Blue Line should be extended even further to the west.

Teresa Powell  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 8:06 PM

If you read carefully you will see that the Village is leading the effort to extend (not remove) the Blue Line. I was astounded at the IDOT meeting a few weeks ago when the highway guys said with a straight face that adding more light rail (Blue Line) would not reduce congestion, but that taking away one of the four lanes into the Loop for a high-occupancy lane would reduce congestion! We need Oak Parkers and others to speak up for transit, not just asphalt.

Paul Obis, the dad from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 7:33 PM

Stopping the blue line is a really stupid idea. Are these the same idiots who want to narrow Madison St.?

Missy B from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 7:23 PM

Worst idea ever. Why don't model yourself after cities like Detroit and Cleveland who don't have a train. They're doing real well, right? Detroit it trying to get federal dollars to start out one rail. You would just MAKE more traffic by getting rid of these stops. It's an absurd idea.

Scott from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 6:57 PM

I'm confused. Are they saying that they would shorten the Blue Line so they could use that area to add the other lane on the IKE? That would make sense, but they don't say that. I live by the Green Line, Harlem stop and if they do this, it will be a mess over there!

barb from oak park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 6:38 PM

IDOT has got to be kidding. Last week, I took the blue line down to Clinton from Austin. Had I had to drive, it would have cost me to park plus gas, when I only had to pay 5.00 for my round trip.

Anne R  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 6:09 PM

I think the Department of Transportation should take a cue from London. The Congestion Charge has been effective in reducing traffic levels and allowed them to invest in improving public transportation. If we can make it more affordable, safer, and widely accessible to ride CTA than to drive, congestion would lessen here, as well. Plus, there is a 100% discount on greener cars. Check it out at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/ and click on "Congestion charge."

Dan in Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 5:36 PM

I am not a transportation engineer, but I have to wonder if IDOT is on to something. The Green line parallels the Blue line, so putting more trains on the Green line might offset the loss. The Blue line could still run on the Cermak branch. Finally, have you ever watched the traffic reports showing the congestion on the IKE in red? Is it my imagination that the red is centered over Oak Park while it is green and not congested where there are 4 lanes each way? Bigger pants indeed!

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 5:34 PM

Ok IDOT You have got to be nuts! We use the blue line to get to our jobs and to go downtown to shop, eat, etc...! I know a lot of people who work at UIC, Rush and what about the students who are attending classes at the downtown schools like UIC, Columbia. Shorten the Blue Line, are you drunk!

epic lulz  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 5:22 PM

Ridership has been increasing as high gas prices and the bad economy are shifting people from cars to public transit.

Commutes via auto as the el stinks from River Forest, Illinois  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 5:04 PM

It may seem impractical; however, I wonder if ridership numbers have been falling. I doubt it would happen given that the cta just updated tracks and signals; but it is not a busy line and the Ike is one of the worst highways in the nation.... Ridership could easily be shifted to the Pink and Green lines too. I'd rather they turn the whole thing into a subway and use the land on top for freeway but the state would never pay for it.

Chris from wood dale, formerly oak park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 5:02 PM

This is a horrible idea!! Even if they did that, everything will still bottleneck and any alternative route such as roosevelt road would be sooooo backed up more than it already is. Double deck maybe? I'm not suggesting I know the answers, but I know that it would just be a waste of tax payers money for sure if they did that.

Alma K from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 4:21 PM

The Blue Line is packed with commuters to Austin, Oak Park, Harlem & Forest Park. I can't imagine why anyone would want to force all those to choose between inconvenient and inefficient bus travel and buying a second car and commuting into the city (which can't handle any more traffic).

Karen Barg Baldwin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 4:09 PM

Agreed...terrible idea. Have they ever stopped to look at how many people get on and off at Austin, Oak Park Ave and Forest Park?

AyM from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 4:03 PM

That's a terrible idea.

Former Oak Parker from Jackson  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 3:56 PM

I don't get it. Transportation planners always seem to be in love with Bus Rapid Transit over rail. I guess they see it as cheap and easy, whereas extending the Blue Line will require some actual work. And the thought of dismantling an existing system and to replace it with buses - madness! If dismantling is the right thing for the Blue Line, please tell me why it's not the right thing for the Brown Line, or any other existing line. Should we dismantle all of CTA rail in favor of buses?

Tom from OP  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 3:49 PM

How about raising the blue line up. Thats got to cost less than widening the Ike.

gail moran from Oak Park  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 3:47 PM

What an awful idea. Seems IDOT is moving backwards.

Not Chicken Little  

Posted: September 27th, 2011 3:44 PM

Was the local group 'monitoring IDOT' the source for this no-chance-in-Hell proposal to close the Blue Line? I bet that would help gets some people to their meeting!

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