IDOT to discuss I-290 interchanges at Austin, Harlem in Oak Park

Village not convinced shifting ramps would increase safety, mobility

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Click here to see IDOT's concepts for the interchanges.

The Oak Park Village Board has called a special meeting for Monday, June 11, to allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to present information on what, if anything, should be done with the Austin and Harlem interchange ramps on the Eisenhower Expressway.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and will be held in the council chambers of Oak Park Village Hall, 123 Madison St.

IDOT has been having ongoing discussion with Oak Park officials as part of its Environmental Impact Study, which is focused on developing and evaluating alternatives associated with the highway. Items like potentially widening the roadway in each direction and a potential CTA Blue Line extension have been among the discussions.

Monday night's meeting, however, will focus on the ramps, according Rob Cole, Oak Park's assistant village manager. Previous meetings involved very broad conversations, but this one will focus on what he said IDOT has called "problematic."

But Cole said village officials aren't sold on the concept yet.

"There is no real consensus indicating that left side ramps are inherently dangerous," he said. "They basically have an encyclopedia-sized argument that they are inherently dangerous, and we don't know if we agree with that. There is a lot of literature that doesn't support that."

Cole said spacing, instead of location, between the interchanges could be the main factor. There are many factors, he said, that account for safety and mobility. That will be part of one of the ongoing discussions, he said. Initial suggestions from IDOT are to look into moving the on and off ramps to one side or the other, instead of in the center.

Cole said IDOT has indicated that they plan on staying within the expressway's current "footprint," and not extend the area. That doesn't mean, however, that it would have no major impact on the surrounding properties, Cole said.

"There are a lot of significant issues and concerns that remain on the table," Cole said.

IDOT officials will be presenting conceptual drawings for the interchanges. Cole said drawings were presented to the village May 1, but he said the preliminary drawings were "terrible," since they lack context and don't provide a three-dimensional vision.

He said the village requested the drawings be improved before Monday's meeting, but said he had no indication if that would, in fact, happen.

  IDOT concepts for Austin and Harlem I-290 interchanges

Email: Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

48 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2012 9:52 PM

Johnson & Lueck both asked IDOT; a) what is the standard of performance that would justify adding an extra lane, and b) why is the 'No Build' scenario being assumed to be the worst scenario? These were the same basic questions asked to, and ignored by, Johnson and Lueck during the Sertus public hearings. We're still waiting for the financial analysis for the Sertus project while Lueck bellyaches about not receiving IDOT drawings prior to the meeting.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 12th, 2012 7:04 PM

There is something ironic about this process, Enuf. Ray Johnson in particular seemed to have doubts about the limited data that IDOT has provided to the board and even referenced the Hillside Strangler section of the Ike. He asked why that plan had not resolved the bottleneck that has plagued the area for decades. Our trustees are going to realize that the Village of Oak Park could be completely shut out of the decision making process unless it demonstrates a cooperative spirit. To protect our interests regarding increaased noise and pollution they will have to get onboard. Better for the trustees to concentrate on securing private investment to help create some commercial development part of the reconfigured overpasses. That does seem to have real potential.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2012 6:24 PM

@JCoughlin ... yes , I agree the shoe is now on the other foot, as the village board is experiencing the same frustration from IDOT as they have caused OP citizens to experience so often in the past. It is ironic to hear Pope, Johnson and Lueck bemoan the lack of openness and transparency, and question data sources and accuracy, when they have repeatedly run roughshod when left to their own devices. When measured and weighed by others, PoJoCo looks powerless and inept.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 12th, 2012 3:27 PM

The presentation by IDOT seemed to frustrate the Village Board. It appeared they may have had issues with accountability and transparency. Valid concerns about how the plan would impact neighborhoods reminded me of the testimonies the trustees themselves had heard from residents regarding the Forest and Lake project and the planned development at Oak Park and Madison. Questions about spending scarce tax dollars on an Ike expansion while not upgrading the rapid transit system echoed similiar complaints about the additional millions this board wants to spend in the Downtown Oak Park area instead of addressing needs in our neighborhoods and other business districts. In the end, it looks like IDOT is going to do what they determine is best and Oak Park will just have to live with the decision.


Posted: June 12th, 2012 3:00 PM

Foregone, I think IDOT seems to be saying that anything they do will be coupled with an extra lane of some type...HOV/Toll whatever. But they also claim they can do it without widening The Trench. We shall see.

Foregone conclusion? from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2012 2:11 PM

So is the expansion of the Ike a foregone conclusion? How much more of Oak Park will be sacrificed to "the Trench"?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 12th, 2012 12:52 PM

Russ, I'm sure you wouldn't say that to a police officer or judge. Observe the speed limit. The number of cars on the road determines traffic flow.


Posted: June 12th, 2012 11:28 AM

I'm with you Harry. I don't want to live in Naperville, but that's the choice of those residents. Oak Park is part of a region and can't bottle up traffic to force a not-completely- shared chauvinistic view on the entire western suburban. What Collette overlooked is that Oak Park is already built-out and could not accomodate all the people from Naperville that she wants to move here. The schools would be overcrowded and the aging infrastructure further stressed, but why give it a thought?


Posted: June 12th, 2012 10:48 AM

We really loved what Trustee Lueck had to say in my house, the end this problem is larger than IDOT, larger than Oak Park, & we need to focus on regional planning that learns from other nations & cities about smart transport. Last night's meeting had a lot of good discussion about very complicated issues. We need to be smarter & I think that message got to IDOT loud and clear at the meeting.


Posted: June 12th, 2012 10:34 AM

Boy, Collette Lueck's statement makes you all sound like aholes. You're not on an island Collette you have to play with the group. No wonder people hate Oak Parkers.


Posted: June 12th, 2012 9:41 AM

Jim, I don't care what the speed limit signs say. If the flow of traffic on a highway is 70mph, then you need to do 70. One slow car messing up the traffic flow is way more dangerous as it forces the cars to pass on the right as well as causing further traffic delays.

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 12th, 2012 8:55 AM

The vast majority of people traveling I=290 during peak period and using either the Harlem or Austin ramps are very familiar with the fact that they are on the left side. More generally, the entire region is so familiar with that the saying, "Oak Parkers are so liberal that even their exits are on the left" has become cliche. Spending big bucks to move from left to right does nothing for predictability, and merging is a driver behavior problem unfixable by construction.

A Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 11:06 PM

Right lane exits and entrances are better for all drivers. It creates predictable flow and merging. What's hard to understand? I have to remind out of town family and guests about the exits all the time. Just make it WB exit at Austin, WB entrance at Harlem, EB exit at Harlem and EB entrance at Austin.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 10:16 PM

Gee, Russ. Blaming grandma for causing traffic to slow down is wrong on so many levels. I do agree with you that a lack of driving skills is a contributing factor but someone who observes the speed limit doesn't deserve to singled out. A greater presence and more enforcement by the state police would address many of the problems that produce vehicular incidents.

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 6:43 PM

IDOT: "I-290 crash records indicate several locations . . . In the eastbound direction, the highest spike in crashes occurs in the vicinity of Mannheim Road. A second high crash spike occurs in relationship to 25th Avenue." Why is the highest eastbound one where IDOT already spent tons of money to improve safety and congestion the "former" Hillside Strangler??? Now, they want to do it again?

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 6:03 PM

You can point to the remarks about left-side exits while ignoring the others, but that invalidates your argument. Explain the others. To reiterate, IDOT analysis of left-side exit found: "The crash data obtained does not pinpoint roadway safety deficiencies that might have contributed to vehicles leaving the roadway or even leaving their lane . . . Again, the crash data obtained does not pinpoint roadway safety deficiencies that might have contributed to crash rates."

Trib Reader from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 5:44 PM

IDOT called out Harlem and Austin out in particular for crash frequency "with a higher number of problems based on data we've collected." Do you deny even that?

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 5:23 PM

@Trib Reader: You still have not looked at the idot crtash reports, have you? *** They clearly show crash hotspots all over the place, not just by the left-side ramps. *** How, then, are the "hotspots" by the left-side ramps any different from those by the right-side ramps??? Are you suggesting the highway should not have either right of left exits? If so, I agree that a highway with no on or off ramps would be safer than one with them.


Posted: June 11th, 2012 5:13 PM

You know it is just lack of driving skills because the vast majority of the 290 traffic jam has nothing to do with wrecks. Traffic flow opens up almost immediately after Harlem when you get to Hillside. Much of the slow down is people driving too slow and not allowing efficient merging from the entrance ramps on the left hand side. All it takes is one grandma in a Buick doing 55mph in the left lane to slow down the flow of traffic.


Posted: June 11th, 2012 5:11 PM

Trib, yes. Think about it. 99% of exit ramps and entrance ramps are on the RIGHT hand side of the highway. The problem with Austin - Harlem is that the highway narrows from four lanes to three lanes. So it is already like water going down a faucet. Next you get some ditz yappin on a cell phone not paying attention combined with being surprised about merging traffic to get on the highway from Austin and Harlem in the left lane.

Tribune Reader from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 5:02 PM

JS, how does that explain the localized crash hot spots at Harlem and Austin? Are they merely due to a inexplicably high concentration of people who "don't know how to merge, change lanes, or otherwise do what is necessary to improve traffic flow" living in the Oak Park area?

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 4:08 PM

That's right, Russ. IDOT acknowledges that a majority of the problem is driver behavior. Neither adding a lane nor moving a ramp is going to change the fact that many don't know how to merge, change lanes, or otherwise do what is necessary to improve traffic flow . . . without $1B highway expansion projects.


Posted: June 11th, 2012 2:46 PM

I think the bigger issue is that most people drive like freakin idiots. The left hand ramps just heighten the idiot factor. Drivers simply don't pay attention so they wait until the last minute to merge to the right to get out of the exit only lane OR despite driving the same route for 10 years, they insist on staying in the left lanes where cars are trying to merge into traffic. Not too mention the people that insist on driving too slow for the flow of traffic.

Tribune Reader from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 2:25 PM

JS are you willing to admit that left-side ramps COULD be a contributing cause of the oh-so-mysterious but well documented crash hot spots at Harlem and Austin, or are that far in complete denial? Or perhaps you don't even acknowledge the data indicates a heighten crash frequency? Never fear, this is OP after all, the exceptionalists/obstructionists are likely to prevail anyway. Why let facts and safety get in the way of our specialness?

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 1:15 PM

I don't know - ask the experts at IDOT that said there's no evidence that left-side ramps are associated with higher crash rates. Their study, not mine. Incisdentally, if you actually look at their crash data, you'll see that that are areas with high crash rates not near the two ramps you'd like to blame. Read the studies - the IDOT's own work - and then come back and chat. Cherry-picking a finding that suits your view does not prove your point - it undermines your credibility.

Tribune Reader from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 1:06 PM

JS: 1) Something is causing more accidents at Harlem and Austin. That's a fact. 2) Why is the west half of the Ike more dangerous than the east half? 3) If you blame it on driver behavior, why does there seem to be such a freakishly high concentration of bad drivers living between Bellwood and Austin?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 12:46 PM

Your suggestions make a lot of sense, Eilene.

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 12:23 PM

Interesting Trib reader. First, correlation does not imply causation. Second, there are many I-290 characteristics that aren't present on other highways in the region. Of course there are more crashes - the comparable aren't comparable. Third, even the Illinois Department of Transportation indicates in their own research that the majority of accidents are driver behavior. If the problem is incorrectly defined, and it is, then the solution is wrong.

Eilene McCullagh Heckman from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 12:15 PM

I can see changing things up at Harlem... because the interchange there isn't solid residential neighborhood. But changing traffic patterns that would dump traffic from Austin to Flournoy and Garfield... is just nonsense. Those streets are already too skinny. Better signage on the expressway and an early barrier-divider of the left-hand lane should be tried before major construction.

Tribune Reader from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 12:05 PM

JS: It sounds like the report you keep parroting was an analytical number crunching of crash data, not an analysis of causes. But since we are parroting reports: "Statistics show the stretch of I-290 between Mannheim Road and Cicero Avenue has the highest crash rate of any in the Chicago expressway system...Left-hand ramps also have a 49 percent higher crash rate than right-hand ramps... And Harlem and Austin are hot spots, with a higher number of problems based on data we've collected."


Posted: June 11th, 2012 11:55 AM

@Just Sayin', you can't be serious? When you have people jumping across three lanes of traffic to get to the exit ramp on the wrong side of the highway, that's dangerous. When you have slow drivers entering the highway in the far left lane (the fast lane) that's dangerous. Apparently you have never been stuck in the left lane when someone decides not to change lanes and instead drives 50 mph in the far left lane. That leads to increased braking and potentially more accidents.

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 11:27 AM

Willful denial, eh? The Illinois Department of Transportation's own report focused on left-side exit and crash rates - yes, their own report - reads: "The crash data obtained does not pinpoint roadway safety deficiencies that might have contributed to vehicles leaving the roadway or even leaving their lane . . . Again, the crash data obtained does not pinpoint roadway safety deficiencies that might have contributed to these crashes." Left-side exits dangerous in and of themselves? Really

Tribune Reader from Oak Park  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 11:16 AM

Statistics aside, for any Oak Park who drives the Ike, the increased danger of the left side ramps, particular at Harlem, is obvious and intuitive. It's a feat of willful denial to claim otherwise. But by all means, let's compromise our safety by letting amateur highway engineers call the shots in the name of quirkiness. Or maybe there's just a freakishly high concentration of remarkably bad drivers living between Bellwood and Austin.

Just Sayin'  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 10:06 AM

From IDOT's own study of a supposed left-hand exit safety problem: "The crash data obtained does not pinpoint roadway safety deficiencies that might have contributed to vehicles leaving the roadway or even leaving their lane . . . Again, the crash data obtained does not pinpoint roadway safety deficiencies that might have contributed to these crashes." Despite their own data not being able to prove left-side ramps dangerous, they made that conclusion, anyway. Wow. Other causes, IDOT??

From Today's Tribune:  

Posted: June 11th, 2012 9:46 AM

***"Statistics show the stretch of I-290 between Mannheim Road and Cicero Avenue has the highest crash rate of any in the Chicago expressway system... Left-hand ramps also have a 49 percent higher crash rate than right-hand ramps..."In that 8-mile stretch, we have about 2,000 crashes a year,"..."And Harlem and Austin are hot spots, with a higher number of problems based on data we've collected." *** Enough already. Oak Park's "we're special" exceptionalism does not trump safety.


Posted: June 11th, 2012 9:44 AM

The IKE will be widened to 4 lanes eventually. If the exits are reconfigured, it should be with this future expansion in mind.


Posted: June 8th, 2012 2:59 PM

Hopefully, what will first be established during Monday's meeting is which government owns the ramps. As you will recall the Village has attempted to declare the ramps historically and architecturally significant in order to prevent the expansion of the Eisenhower. Once that is settled there can be a discussion of IDOT's proposed reconfiguration. When IDOT is successful in widening the IKE, it makes sense to have entry on the right rather than into the HOV lane.

S Walker  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 12:06 PM

Public unions have no place when times are tough. Too much waste and over spending when they are involved. The free market would allow for cheaper labor and better quality outcomes.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 11:38 AM

@Brian, Rob Cole did make the presentation to the Village Board about establishing a trolley system down Lake St. I can't credit him for "imagination and fortitude" since his proposal was so poorly researched. Trustee Hale had to point out to him that the Chicago trolley system that Cole touted during his presentation was not successful and was being scrapped. I think that if Cole had done his homework he might have realized the folly of the trolley.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 11:31 AM

Q, Rob Cole's promotion seemed tied to him agreeing to take the lead in an attempt to bust the employees' union at Village Hall. He produce a very offensive cartoon about the union and made a number of derogatory comments. Cole's efforts to decertify were not successful. The Village Board had been made aware of his activities but took no action to reign him in. Cole was a favorite of then-Village Attorney Heise who had great influence in deciding promotions. I have no idea if he is qualified for the position as assistant village manager but do recall he performed his duties as a permit clerk without incident and spent his free time drawing pictures of fish.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 10:23 AM

If,if, Rob Cole had the idea for a trolley system in Oak Park,and even if that idea was proven unworkable, at least Rob Cole had the imagination and fortitude tO present his idea. Do not fear the presentation of a bad idea,fear the implementation of BAD IDEA.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 9:41 AM

@ Jim Coughlin, how did Rob Cole go from application taker in the building department to V.M., manager. That just does not happen without something else taking place. No business is going to take the janitor in the office and promote him to Vice President of the company.

@ Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 7:53 AM

Unless you know something we don't, why assume Rob Cole was behind the whole trolley system idea? He's not the boss. The idea never could have made it on the board agenda without prior approval from someone higher than him plus it's probable the project was passed down to him. Assistant VMs don't just get up and make board presentations on their own prerogative.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 2:00 AM

Rob Cole should not be involved in any decision making. He belongs back in taking money for permits in the permit department. Why he jumped from money taken to assistant to the VM, is anyone's guess. If anyone knows how that happened explain it.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 1:34 AM

I would feel more comfortable if Oak Park were represented by a more experienced and knowledgable team. Rob Cole once tried to sell the board on the idea of the Village of Oak Park investing millions in a Lake Street trolley system. Thankfully, his plan was quickly derailed by Trustee Jon Hale who pointed out to Cole that his research was lacking and the trolleys would represent a considerable expenditure that we had no chance to recoup. The Eisenhower reconfiguration will have a significant impact on our community and we need to make sure our interests are carefully protected.

A Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2012 12:27 AM

Who said these were the best alternatives? Who studied this? Why have B-1? The Level of Service (LOS) is worsened at Harlem in the am (B to C level) and then Austin shows no improvement in LOS in the am (Both F's)! What gives? Move the entrance and exit to the east side of Austin. Also make the Harlem interchange a half interchange with the exit and entrance on the west wide of Harlem. Let people exit WB at Austin and enter WB on Harlem. Let them exit EB at Harlem and enter EB on Austin.

Rob Cole  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 4:47 PM

Please note that the Illinois Department of Transportation and their consultants have already acknowledged that their preliminary drawings do not provide for effective consideration of the benefits and drawbacks associated with their conceptual drawings. The Village and other study participants have placed significant emphasis on enhancing pedestrian safety; the IDOT has also made a firm commitment in that regard, irrespective of the final interchange design.

Commuter from Oak Park  

Posted: June 7th, 2012 1:29 PM

When it comes to highway safety I would just assume trust IDOT over village staff. I'm not sure Mr. Cole even knows how to read a drawing because I see lots of 3D views below. And from a pedestrian point of view, Concept B-1 would be a huge improvement for commuters trying to get to the Blue Line station from the north, who now must cross both the westbound exit and entry ramps thanks to the left lane design.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2018

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad

Latest Comments