Trustees formally received a plan on Monday to narrow Madison Street from four lanes to three (with a center turn lane), which could cost as much as $17.3 million. However, they won’t start debating the idea until sometime in the first quarter of 2012.
The plan would involve possibly adding bike lanes on each side of Madison, making it easier for pedestrians to cross the street and slowing motorists so they can get a closer look at local businesses.
Some residents have criticized the idea, saying it costs too much and would lead to traffic jams along Madison, while others have pointed out the dangers of the auto-dominated stretch and the need to ease travel for cyclists and pedestrians.
The village board plans to delve deeper into the idea of putting Madison Street on a “road diet” during a meeting sometime in early 2012. About $7.7 million remains in the Madison Street TIF, and Oak Park is budgeting an additional $9.3 million toward the street project in 2012.
The Madison Street Theatre is also asking for as much as $1.4 million in TIF money from the village, hoping to update its aging facilities and possibly expand east into a space now occupied by a frame store.
Sharon Patchak-Layman — a current member of the District 200 Board of Education and a longtime critic of Oak Park’s use of TIFs — thinks the village would have been better served by letting the TIF dollars go back to other taxing bodies, including the school districts, library and township.
“It’s best for the village, if they want to do something on Madison, to go out to the community and get approval to sell bonds for whatever it is they want to do, instead of doing it through the TIF slush fund,” she said.