Madison Street goes on road diet

Village poised to OK lane reduction, add bike lanes

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

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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Reader Comments

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Marty Bernstein  

Posted: November 2nd, 2018 3:48 PM

Several million dollars to remove the islands? Why?

Chris Hanson  

Posted: November 1st, 2018 9:25 PM

We should just have the Feds hand over 290 to the Il Tollway and let them reconstruct it into a 10 lane highway from Mannheim to Congress. That way all of that commuter traffic on Madison, Jackson, Washington, Roosevelt, etc. would stay on the Ike and off of the streets.

George Smith  

Posted: November 1st, 2018 12:19 PM

Won't this be the same time they are also tearing up Lake Street? Nice planning

Bruce Kline  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 3:14 PM

Yep Alice. At the same time these blowhards make noises about controlling the tax burden. I might ever, ever, consider putting other taxing bodies under their purview. It would be like giving a drug addict the keys to the pharmacy.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 2:08 PM

Another terrible, but trendy idea gleefully approved by our trustees. $5.6 million? LOL. I'm guessing at least $8 mil. Also? Are Brooks and Julian parents living South of Washington OK with this? "Washington, which has about 5,300 vehicles pass by per day, will increase by as many as 1,400 vehicles, McKenna noted."

Michael Newman from Oak Park  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 12:07 PM

I am an avid cyclist and I ride with the local Lake Harlem Cycling Group. I know that my opinion may not be popular with Lake Harlem but I think that this road diet idea for Madison St is a huge mistake. Washington Blvd is a perfectly acceptable road to bike on and it's only one block north of Madison St. For a cyclist to get to a business on Madison, one can ride on Washington (or Jackson) to the nearest north/south street of whatever business on Madison one is trying to ride to. So you don't need bike lanes on Madison St. The Village of Oak Park should spend money on bicycling infrastructure but it's a waste to spend it on Madison St - as another poster has said here - it's a bike lane to nowhere. The plans for Madison St should be scaled back to maintain what is presently there and the money saved should either be returned to the property tax payers as lower future property taxes or the money saved should be utilized as cycling and pedestrian improvements elsewhere. There are plenty of instances of "road diet" failures. Look at Folsom St in Boulder, CO - The people of Boulder bike considerably more than the people of Oak Park but road diets can even be failures in Boulder. Having been to Boulder and having lived in Oak Park, I can tell you that this Madison St road diet is going to be another Folsom Street-like fiasco. Also, fiascoes like these turn off the residents and thus poison the well for future cycling and pedestrian ideas that actually have merit.

Mark Moroney  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 10:45 AM

Cyclist will not use Madison, even if there is a dedicated bike lane. There are many safer, peaceful and scenic alternatives.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 8:43 AM

Reminds me of the ill fated Lake Street Mall. The city fathers thought, like Yogi Berra said, "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." Then nobody when to the mall. Then we replaced the mall with a street again. Waste of money.

Terry Stanton  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 8:41 AM

I understand the concept and goal--to make Madison less of a highway and more of a local commercial street. But how about reality? There is then no decent east-west route between Roosevelt and North, both of which are already traffic clogged. Lake Street was gridlocked even before they kept adding highrise condo buildings. Look at the backup on Madison east bound approaching Ridgeland during afternoon rush; that is with four lanes. I know a lot of the argument for this is that a two-lane Madison will punish or chase away those awful out-of-town commuters who are bypassing 290, but it's a local thoroughfare too. It's hard enough to drive it east to or through Harlem because of the massive congestion there; the backup there will be punishing to everyone.

Margy Feley  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 6:14 AM

Seems to me like more thought should go into projects that the village initiates. Only heard one trustee express concerns that taxpayers might be upset about the islands being taken out considering they were put in about 15+ years ago. Would like to know how much money we wasted.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 12:26 AM

Sadly, there was no concern or interest expressed by board members in addressing the environmental impact the inevitable increase in traffic will have on residential neighborhoods, parks and schools. I don't believe the process was "rigged" as was claimed during public comments but the lack of an independent study of the quality of life issues relating to diverting thousands of vehicles to Jackson and Washington boulevards is both troubling and disappointing.

Daniel Krout from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 11:36 PM

Have you geniuses driven Roosevelt Road? It's like a stalled parade - every time I get near it. I have maybe one or two destination businesses that I might try to visit, but otherwise I am avoiding Roosevelt. You are likely to thwart traffic and make people less likely to visit Madison. And let's make sure to do this right before work starts on overhauling the Eisenhower.....sounds about right.

Tim Colestock  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 8:07 PM

Amazing, the Board wants to take a congested street and reduce it to two lanes. So does traffic now back up to the United Center or go to Lake St which is already too full. Yet we build more apartments. The Board is so driven by trying to lower property taxes they have no concern for quality of life in OP.

George Smith  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 7:07 PM

Do people really think annoying drivers will make them want to stop and shop? This is a dumb idea, even for Oak Park.

Bob Pawlowski  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 6:53 PM

Who will really benefit from this project? I mean aside from politicians and contractors? And why is increased traffic on Washington and Jackson a good thing? This project sounds like the equivalent of getting a heart bypass operation from Dr. Nick from The Simpsons. NOT a good idea if you're not familiar with the character. In the nine years I've lived in OP, the projects and the powers that be have started to make less and less sense.

Loren Andersen  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 5:57 PM

I think this is great. The vastly improved street scape will attract more businesses and foot traffic. Madison in FP seems to do just fine with two lanes. Push cars to Jackson or Washington. Maybe the funerals will go to 22nd or North Ave. This will only help property values for anyone living near Madison.

Nick A Binotti  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 4:20 PM

So the Madison corridor remains 7 car lanes wide, except 2 car lanes are replaced with bicycle lanes? That means pedestrians crossing Madison still have to contend with 5 lanes of traffic, 2 more than the Madison corridor in Forest Park and the same as Harlem. And now we have yet another bicycle path to nowhere? Strange...

Ellen Edwards  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 4:12 PM

the assumption that drivers forced to slow down will stop and shop is a fallacy. What if my intent is simply to get across town efficiently? The fact that Village trustees don't seem to understand this baffles me - and does make it seem the real intent here is to benefit developers, not residents. Anyone have suggestions on how to put the brakes on this wrongheaded project?

Neal Buer  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 3:29 PM

Road diet = Insanity. Let's narrow the commercial street, so more cars drive through the residential areas, where the kids are. Who are these people we elected to represent us? Or are they just representing the developers? We need to change our village motto to "For Sale to the Highest Bidder". Unfortunately, Oak Park isn't Oak Park anymore.

Anne Hennessy  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 3:25 PM

Still don't get this. Madison is a street of businesses from the city out to the suburbs west of OP. Jackson and Washington in OP are streets of residences, schools and parks. Jackson is also a now notorious funeral procession route. We have confirmation that this scheme will result in increased traffic on those two streets. (From the article: "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.") Why is it such a genius idea to squeeze motorists off Madison onto residential streets?

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