It’s a project that’s eight years in the making, but the Oak Park Board of Trustees is poised to approve a transportation project that would reduce Madison Street to two lanes and add lanes for bicyclists.

The board did not take final action on the project at its Oct. 29 meeting, but trustees did unanimously voice their support for the so-called road diet plan, which will run the entire stretch of the roadway from Harlem to Austin.

Residents turned out in support and opposition to the proposal, with many arguing for the improved safety the project would bring for bicyclists and pedestrians and others expressing concern over increased traffic congestion and cars it would send into the adjacent neighborhoods.

Resident Rachel Poretsky told trustees that road diets have been successful in other parts of the country and would slow down motorists, making them more likely to visit businesses along the commercial corridor.

“I want Oak Park to be a place that people drive to, not drive through,” she said.

Road-diet opponent Francis Bakalar said he believes the plan will bring congestion and force more traffic onto the adjacent streets of Washington and Jackson boulevards.

“There must be other solutions,” he said. 

Village Engineer Bill McKenna acknowledged that traffic studies show that the road diet will increase the number of vehicles on Jackson by about 400 to 600 per day. That roadway experiences as many as 4,000 vehicles a day currently. Washington, which has about 5,300 vehicles pass by per day, will increase by as many as 1,400 vehicles, McKenna noted.

The project is projected to cost $5.6 million and will be completed in 2019, if trustees approve the plan at their meeting scheduled for Nov. 19.

McKenna said the road diet would also reduce the speed of vehicles passing along Madison from about 37 miles per hour to roughly 28 miles per hour.

“If we get a 10-mile-per-hour speed reduction, that would be great,” he said.

Trustees voiced interest in also removing the islands that run along Madison to help improve safety and reduce congestion, but McKenna said removing the islands is projected to cost several million dollars.

McKenna did not have exact figures for the cost of removal at the meeting but will bring revised estimates to the Nov. 19 meeting.

Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said the islands create a “hindrance” to the road diet but added that it is “time to take action” on the project.

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