Pedestrian-friendlier: This computerized rendering shows a bike lane Ridgeland and Madison looking east.Village of Oak Park

Grandiose plans for Madison Street in Oak Park could come with a price tag of as much as $17.3 million, village officials revealed on Monday.

Oak Park has been talking for months about the possibility of shrinking the car-dominated stretch from four lanes down to three. The move would allow the village to add bike lanes in either direction, along with safer crosswalks for pedestrians heading north and south.

Village hall brought up the idea of putting Madison Street on a “road diet” about a year ago, but Monday was the first time that the plan included a cost. That could range anywhere from $6.9 million for a simple version that just spruces up the parkways and sidewalks, to $17.3 million that would include colored bike lanes between Lombard and Home.

Madison is far too geared toward cars, and Oak Park needs to reconfigure the roadway to change that mindset and make it safer for cyclists and pedestrians, said Josephine Bellalta, a consultant with the firm that designed the plan, Altamanu.

“Looking at Madison, it felt like a street that was for cars,” she said. “So we’re trying to understand that streets, perhaps, have more complex uses.”

Madison is the widest street that’s completely within the village, but doesn’t have near the traffic volumes of North Avenue or Harlem. Bellalta said many motorists are just zipping through Oak Park looking to head elsewhere, and the village should think about slowing them down so they get a closer look at local businesses.

Ron Burke — an Oak Park resident and head of the Active Transportation Alliance —told trustees that it’s a risky venture trying to cross Madison. He avoids the stretch where possible, instead doing his shopping in Forest Park.

“Right now, it really is so car-centric,” he said. “It’s just a big pike for moving cars, and it does it well, but, I would argue, with some serious downsides.”

On the other side, Oak Parker Susan Fleming said she takes Madison east every day to get to her job in Little Village. The street already seems backed up because of fast food drive-thrus, and it never forces her to stop and shop.

“You need to teach your kids how to cross the street. I don’t think we can take all the danger out of life if we live in the city,” she said. “Traffic is a reality unless you’re going to stay in Oak Park.”

At the board table, Trustee Ray Johnson said he’s struggling with why Oak Park needs to pursue the project, and how it would ever pay for it. He wondered if the village could explore a much simpler reinvention of the road, focusing on “hot spots” where it’s hard to cross.

“I’m still struggling with that question of not just how, but why, and whether this is the best way to reinvigorate Madison,” Johnson said.

Oak Park has about $7.7 million remaining in the Madison Street tax increment financing district, a pool of money set aside from property taxes for local development on Madison. Oak Park officials say the money needs to be allocated by the end of this year. The village is budgeting some $9.3 million for the street project in 2012, and may need to take on debt if it pursues the pricier versions of the plan.

Trustees asked for further information on the proposal, and plan to meet again Dec. 5 to decide whether to move forward.

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