I have read the IDOT propaganda document “I-290 Environmental Impact Statement. West of Mannheim Road to East of Cicero Avenue. Purpose and Need. September, 2011, Draft.” Among other things, this document includes a detailed analysis of traffic patterns, traffic accidents, etc. I would like to highlight a couple of points that illustrate that (a) IDOT is determined to widen the Eisenhower Expressway, and (b) IDOT will twist every bit of evidence to support this predetermined conclusion.
First, the incidence of traffic accidents is highest at the entrance to the westbound Ike from Harlem Avenue although every interchange produces accidents. IDOT would like you to believe that the reason for these accidents is that the expressway has only three lanes instead of four. Anyone who has ever thrown caution to the winds and used this on-ramp can explain precisely why this location produces accidents, and the reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with the number of lanes.
This intersection was designed by a homicidal maniac! Four factors combine to make this entrance a death trap. First and foremost, there is essentially no space to merge into traffic. This grotesque design flaw is exacerbated by the fact that one must merge into the high-speed lane. The third factor is that the road curves left at this point, decreasing the visibility both for those merging and for left-lane drivers. Finally, to add injury to insult, there is a red light at the very bottom of the ramp during rush hours, forcing law-abiding citizens to merge into the high-speed lane from 0 mph!
If one were asked to design the most lethal traffic situation possible, I doubt that anyone could top this. Of course this intersection causes accidents — it was designed to massacre those who use it! That IDOT cynically uses their own poor design to argue that we should listen to their advice about widening the expressway reveals remarkable chutzpah.
A second point is that the document describes and illustrates rush-hour congestion of all arterial surface streets that feed into or parallel the Eisenhower. The implication is that expanding the Ike would alleviate this surface street congestion. This is pure fiction.
There are two relevant causes of surface street congestion. (1) The first source is traffic feeding into the Ike. Assuming the expanded Ike will carry more traffic means more vehicles are using the Ike and therefore streets that feed into the Ike will have more traffic than before. Worse. (2) Second, congestion due to vehicles using parallel surface streets (North, Lake, Roosevelt, Cermak) to avoid the Ike might improve temporarily if the expanded Ike were less congested. This will not happen because studies show that expanding road capacity leads to a proportional increase in use. Even IDOT believes this, because their “no-build” scenario projects only a 3% increase in Ike traffic by 2040 because it is already at full capacity.
Widening the Eisenhower Expressway hurts Oak Park by every possible analysis. Congestion on Austin and Harlem (feeder arteries) will be worse than ever. There will be more traffic flowing past Oak Park into Chicago, creating more noise and air pollution. Traffic on the inbound Ike from Oak Park into Chicago will increase, and the same four lanes, already horrendously congested, will be even worse.
That Chicago desperately needs vastly improved and expanded public transportation is a no-brainer.
Tom DeCoursey is an Oak Park resident who lives a half block from the expressway.