Village board asked to give more Ike feedback by January

Staff provides update, asks to have direction at start of 2014

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The New Year will come with new comments about the I-290 Eisenhower Expressway reconstruction project that's garnered a wealth of attention from residents and officials in Oak Park.

In the past 60 days alone, there have been three community meetings about the Ike. Each session was met with their fair share of public criticism and support for the expansion project. The village has also created a website to continue dialogue from the public, and uses it to continue the talks outside of the forums.

Trustee Ray Johnson suggested during the village board's Nov. 18, meeting that more regional sessions need to take place so that "we're not just looking at the impacts on Oak Park, but so we're having a discussion with our neighboring communities."

Village staff, Johnson added, should look into dipping into past grant funds the village has received for this project. Those grants, he said, may allow for the village to hire someone with technical expertise in regards to the reports and project drawings from the Illinois Department of Transportation. This would include evaluating the proposal of sound-proof walls and how it impacts sound, as well as how it travels from the expressway, Johnson said.

He continued his skepticism about many elements of the project and suggested Oak Park officials and residents need to stay ahead of the game.

"The more IDOT talks, the more concerned I get," Johnson said.

The board was provided with a brief report from Assistant Village Manager Rob Cole, who provided a list of questions staff has tasked village board direction from in January.

Those questions include:

  • Is it the village's position that CTA Blue Line improvements must be completed in tandem with I-290 reconstruction?

  • Is the expansion of bridge decking in Oak Park maximized with the current plan and what strategies does the village support to ensure these capital improvements are part of the I-290 reconstruction?

  • Does the village support pricing strategies for cars on the I-290 and, if so, does the village want to advocate for mandatory revenue share with corridor transit, etc.?

  • How can the village clarify if Oak Park will be asked to locally fund capital expenditures related to the I-290 reconstruction for project elements that are proposed to improve urban design and connection to the I-290 (e.g. complete streets, enhanced pedestrian and bicycle amenities)?

  • Does the village oppose on/off ramps at either the Harlem or Austin interchanges that are reconstructed at a grade equal to, or above, the adjacent local street (e.g. Harrison or Fluornoy)?

  • In 2014, will the village officially oppose deficiencies in the planning process to date in order to reserve the future right to challenge the Environment Impact Statement?

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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dystOPia from OP  

Posted: November 26th, 2013 3:07 PM

The history of the IKE's design through Oak Park has been based on Oak Park's 'exceptionalism'. From the beginning design of a more expensive trench and left lane on-off ramps, to current advocacy of a capped expressway and retention of unsafe left lane on-off ramps, Oak Park has always demanded more resources be allocated between Austin and Harlem, relative to resources allocated to neighboring communities. Oak Park needs to shed it's embarrassing and centric exceptionalism attitude.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 26th, 2013 12:01 PM

My answers to Cole questions. 1. No, 2. Clarify??, 3. Yes; maybe No, 4. Fluorney!, 5. Of course, they will.


Posted: November 26th, 2013 11:55 AM

I don't think there's an easy answer for grade-level on-off ramps unless the ditch becomes deeper and the overpasses are rebuilt lower and the same level as Austin and Harlem. The ramp intersections will be moved to right above the expressway, meaning they will be 50ft or so closer to the north side than they are today. If the overpass is higher than the streets, then by its very nature, the overpass exits/entrances will be above surrounding grade level. The only solution is to dig deeper.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 26th, 2013 11:52 AM

I cannot disagree more with Ray Johnson position that "we're not just looking at the impacts on Oak Park, but so we're having a discussion with our neighboring communities." The board and the staff have a lot of work to do to get the village out of the hole dug by overspending for a decade and mismanagement of TIF funds. We need board members, and our staff, to concentrate their time and energy on Oak Park, rather than wasting money and manpower on neighboring communities, Bellwood, Berwyn, Forest Park, and Maywood that are not asking for the village's help. It is also sickening that every time a board member comes up with a new idea, we immediately run to Fed for more government grants. Grants are becoming this decade's TIF's. All talk, loads of paper work, and meeting and very little results. The board's focus should be on the 2014 budget, not on pet issues that have little revenue value to the village.


Posted: November 26th, 2013 11:46 AM

@Jim from SOP - A Blue Line extension is in OP's (and near west burbs) best interest as it could encourage some folks to park n ride, provide better downtown access, and a better experience for all in the corridor. But I agree the extension is a separate matter. IDOT has included the space for a BL expansion in their plans but that doesn't mean it will ever get built. And CTA also agrees that rebuilding the existing line is a higher priority than any expansion.

Jim from South Oak Park  

Posted: November 26th, 2013 8:20 AM

Take Blue Line extension off the table. OP will get four traffic lanes each way, a CTA double track and new stations. It makes no difference to OP how far west the Blue Line goes. Focus on air, noise and visual pollution in the village. Neighbors put six-foot fences up on the Ike's north edge; if IDOT raises the roadway, are fences going to have to go up 12-feet? Can CTA use welded rail to cut down on noise? Focus max effort on air, noise and visual pollution. These are Oak Park issues.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 26th, 2013 12:00 AM

Should read "Oak Park "doesn't" get saddled with the worst case scenario". We cannot afford to allow that happen because we didn't rely upon the best and brightest to handle these negotiations.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 25th, 2013 11:55 PM

How much confidence should residents have that Oak Park's best interests are being properly represented and protected? Is there more information available regarding the credentials, experience and any proven track record of the person the trustees hired for technical experitise? What are the special qualifications of all staff members involved in the negotiations? Let's hear more about our "team". The final decison on the Ike reconfiguration will impact the community for decades. We need to be sure that Oak Park does get saddled with the worst case scenario.


Posted: November 25th, 2013 7:57 PM

Thanks for your comments Sergio. Bruce, how is it that IDOT doesn't listen to the will of the people? From Sergio's comments, and past ones that I and others have made, even Oak Park doesn't have a unified "will" on this issue. And, should IDOT only listen to a portion of Oak Park, or perhaps to the will of the region that desperately needs to improve the IKE by increasing the number of lanes while fully examining the possibility of extending the Blue Line? That part is up to the CTA.

Sergio from Oak Park  

Posted: November 25th, 2013 6:52 PM

Slanted questions from Village staff. Here are some alternates for the Village Board to ponder: 1. Should we continue to spend tax $ on pointless opposition? 2. Should we support ramps that have killed and maimed scores of citizens? 3. Will the Village continue to oppose a project that will greatly reduce local traffic congestion? 4. Can we look any more assine to the Chicagoland region? 5. When will the Board pay attention to basic services and stop tilting at windmills?

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: November 25th, 2013 9:29 AM

It is apparent from the past that IDOT, for the most part, does not listen to the will of the people. They believe that the "T" in IDOT really stands for cars and not transportation in general. Maybe what they will listen to are elected officials. However, most of our local officials in Chicago are either corrupt or oblivious, and Oak Park has a key senator that takes money from Conoco Phillips Co of Texas, Exxon Mobil and Phillips 66, all of whom have a vested interest in cars.


Posted: November 23rd, 2013 9:34 PM

I agree. The board seems to seek approval of the Village Manager instead of directing staff. If she doesn't get her way she goes around them.

Embarrassed to be from Oak Park  

Posted: November 23rd, 2013 8:06 AM

"The board was provided with a brief report from Assistant Village Manager Rob Cole, who provided a list of questions staff has tasked village board direction from in January." I had to reread this sentence 3 times to understand it. Perhaps the board can start by making clear to staff that staff is there to execute the board's will and not vice versa. I agree that if the board is willing to let isolated special interests continue to be the voice of OP, then IDOT ought to bypass us altogether.

Safety First  

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 6:15 PM

If I were IDOT, I would threaten to eliminate the on/off ramps at both Harlem and Austin interchanges, to send the message that if Oak Park continues to oppose standard and safe right lane ramps, then no ramps will be included.

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