Rapid transit advocate: State Sen. Don Harmon says there's no way the Blue Line will be shortened.J. GEIL/Photo Editor

Even before the first shovel hit the ground, Oak Park wrestled with the ramifications of a major highway splitting the village in two. The Eisenhower Expressway, and what to do about it, has been a topic of conversation for years. Over the past decade, the Illinois Department of Transportation has undertaken a process to evaluate ways to move traffic, cars, rail and public transit in a more efficient way through what is known as the Eisenhower Corridor.

I’ve long advocated for an expansion of public transportation as a part of the Eisenhower Corridor improvements. I have repeatedly stated my strong opposition to any improvements that would widen the Eisenhower “ditch” through Oak Park. Recently, as a part of the Eisenhower Corridor process, some concerns have arisen. I would like to address these concerns and clear up some misconceptions.

As a part of the Eisenhower Expressway Corridor process, federal regulations require the Illinois Department of Transportation to take suggestions from all stakeholders, including municipalities, transit agencies, residents, and roadway users. IDOT reports that it received about 170 suggestions as part of the process, and has begun “modeling” some of those suggestions as required by federal regulations.

Among the suggestions that IDOT received was to remove the Blue Line, which runs along the Eisenhower Expressway. In response, the Regional Transportation Authority requested that if IDOT were to model the suggestion, then that model should consider the use of Bus Rapid Transit instead.

The impression that either IDOT or the RTA proposed to remove the Blue Line is erroneous. When I spoke to the RTA leadership, I confirmed that the RTA does not support dismantling the Blue Line and remains committed to maintaining robust public transit service within the Eisenhower Corridor to Oak Park and our neighboring communities.

I also spoke with the acting secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation regarding the Eisenhower Corridor process, as I have with all previous IDOT secretaries during my time in office. While I have received repeated assurances from IDOT that removing the Blue Line is not being seriously considered, I reiterated my position that any plan regarding the Eisenhower Corridor should include extending the Blue Line further into the suburbs. In short, any proposal to dismantle the Blue Line will meet a swift defeat.

The Eisenhower Expressway has been a controversial subject in Oak Park since its original design and construction. Having lived in Oak Park all my life, I understand many of the concerns the community has about its expansion. I have long been convinced that widening the Eisenhower Expressway will not solve our transportation needs in this region. Moreover, any widening of the Eisenhower Expressway would be both disruptive and destructive to our community.

The first and best solution to solving our transit needs is for a robust expansion of the Blue Line.

State Senator Don Harmon (D-39th) lives in Oak Park.

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