Our basic approach to the Illinois Department of Transportation is distrust today, distrust tomorrow, distrust until the day the ribbon is cut on the remade Eisenhower Expressway through Oak Park.
Only then, when the highway has been expanded by two lanes but entirely within the existing ditch gouged through Oak Park in the mid-1950s, can Oak Park consider relenting on the pressure directed at IDOT. This agency is so far from proving it has any motivation other than laying concrete roads, that we are perpetually suspect.
It was IDOT, you’ll recall, that recently floated the concept of ripping up the Blue Line trains from Forest Park all the way to the Medical District on the Near West Side. That reflects a Neanderthal understanding of where urban transportation must be headed.
Monday night IDOT presented Oak Park with its initial thoughts on ways to deal with the retrograde left-hand ramps that are unique to Oak Park’s Austin Boulevard and Harlem Avenue exits. IDOT argues that the center exits are far more dangerous than the traditional right lane exits and entrances. Significantly, the options IDOT was to present Monday all were based on adding two lanes to the congested road but somehow doing it within the current space.
How softly can you whisper, “Victory”?
Now return your boot to IDOT’s throat and tell them that all of their planned exits are inadequate and move traffic too close to existing Oak Park housing. Actually, though the schematics are hard to decipher, we found some elements of the exit options interesting. We might be willing to give up some access to the Ike — one plan has no entrance heading west at Austin — in order to contain the added lanes.
The point is that Oak Park has, to date, had strong influence on this critical discussion because it has stood for a fundamental goal — no wider ditch — and it has expended political capital (and taxpayer dollars) to make the point stick. So far, and it is still early, it has been an impressive stand. We urge them to hold firm.