Madison Street just east of Oak Park AvenueGraham Johnston/Staff

The Village of Oak Park might be shrinking Madison Street to three lanes of traffic in the not-too-distant future, depending on what elected officials think of the idea.

For months, village hall has been exploring the possibility of eliminating two lanes of traffic along the busy east-west stretch, to allow for wider sidewalks and bike lanes. The village government paid a consultant, Altamanu, $100,000 to delve into the concept a year ago, and now the plan appears to be reaching a critical point.

Oak Park trustees are scheduled to hear a presentation from Altamanu on Nov. 28, with a more detailed discussion expected in January, said Village Planner Craig Failor.

“We’re interested to find out what the trustees feel about it,” said John Mac Manus, a landscape architect with Altamanu. “We’ve had, overall, an incredibly positive response from the public, and an extraordinarily positive response from the business community. It should be an interesting discussion.”

Failor said that all money from the Madison Street tax increment financing district (TIF) needs to be allocated by the end of 2011, adding extra urgency to the discussion. Oak Park has a preliminary cost estimate for the project, but he declined to provide the price tag ahead of the Nov. 28 discussion.

However, Craig Lesner, the chief financial officer for the village, said that about $7.7 million remains in the Madison TIF, and some $9.3 million is budgeted next year for upgrades along the stretch. Failor said that Oak Park has received a $575,000 grant from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to add the bike lanes.

Altamanu has held several meetings over the past year, with business owners and neighborhood groups, trying to figure out the right recipe for Madison. The two concepts they’re focusing on are a “road diet” (eliminating lanes of traffic) and “complete streets” (making the roadway usable by cars, bikes and pedestrians).

Failor said the proposal would make Madison similar to Roosevelt Road, with two lanes of traffic and a center lane for left turns, rather than the current five. At the handful of meetings they’ve held, most residents and business owners have favored the idea.

The Madison redo would also include removing planters in the middle of the street from Austin to Oak Park Avenue, repairing the underground water and sewer lines, planting trees, and adding decorative benches and streetlights.

Dennis Marani, the president of the Madison Street Business Association, held off on endorsing the proposal on Monday. But he said the biz group “did not respond negatively” to the idea of putting Madison on a road diet.

“It’s intricate, and I think people really need time to digest this properly,” he said.

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