Recently, I attended the village board meeting that focused on the proposed “Road Diet” for Madison Street. I’m a longtime resident (30+ years) and am very concerned about this proposal to shrink Madison — the only central thoroughfare we have!

A lot of those in attendance who were in favor of this “road diet” were primarily in favor of decreasing traffic on Madison with the hopes of decreasing accidents. But those very same people were also very concerned about the diverted traffic patterns along other more residential roads, i.e. Jackson, Washington, etc.

This is my concern as well. I am all for revitalizing Madison. The TIF money and large-scale plan can still move ahead with engineering better/brighter crosswalks, eliminating the superfluous medians/planters and creating more business opportunity. But to strangle the road down to one lane each way will not only create a horrific traffic situation (look at downtown Lake Street!), it will overflow onto residential roads and also create a transportation and commuter nightmare for both Austin and Harlem. 

At the meeting, the mayor heard that there were 26 public commenters. He only allowed five on “each side, five who favor and five who disapprove.” Upon hearing from a member of the audience to “Keep it open,” he allowed for six each, keeping to three minutes apiece. 

I found this to be very objectionable, especially due to his introductory comments thanking all in attendance for this targeted subject matter. He then suggested, “You all work it out among yourselves as to who gets to speak.” This was very sloppy leadership.

I stayed and waited for someone to speak on behalf of Oak Park commuters. For those who do not have the luxury of working within Oak Park (Mayor Abu-Taleb) and who must travel by auto to their place of work, reaching the 290 ramp in a reasonable time is key. Strangling the only central artery we have will create chaos around Madison and on each end of Oak Park, more than we already have. No one brought up this point specifically, so I felt it necessary to voice my opinion.

The village’s goal seems to be to increase the population, with all the condos and townhomes under construction. If that is the case, they’ve not planned for all of the automobiles that come along with new residents. If they are thinking that all of these new people will find work within town, or will choose to ride bicycles, they are dreaming. More people = more cars and more parking problems.

As far as having a “big box” store to anchor this “road diet,” that also means more cars coming from outside of the community proper. Can the village handle all this traffic and have its roads shrink?

I’ve heard rumors of a petition to put this on the ballot. I hope someone takes this on. There are many residents who are unaware of this strangling plan for Madison. We need this to be put to a vote before any more action takes place. We need to stop this. 

Mary Ryan is an Oak Park resident.

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