Rethinking Forest and Ontario traffic, landscaping gets OK

Albion, high-rise developer, footing $340,000 of cost

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Staff Reporter

On Monday, the Oak Park village board voted to approve a plan to design a new traffic calming project for the intersection of Forest and Ontario, a corner which bridges the high-rises of downtown Oak Park and the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. When completed, the village government's goal is to ease congestion while making travel safer for drivers and pedestrians. 

"We will start the designing this fall with the intent to start construction this spring," said Village Engineer Bill McKenna. This past winter and spring, the village has been meeting with residents to discuss ideas to alleviate the intersection's traffic problem. Site Design Group, Ltd., a landscape and architecture design firm, has already submitted conceptual plans. According to McKenna, the village is not planning to put in a cul-de-sac or close roads. "We're just putting in barriers, so drivers know to drive slowly, that they are in a residential area," he said.

Due to the smattering of Frank Lloyd Wright homes on Forest Avenue., the area is a hotspot for tourists and fans of the Oak Park architect. With pedestrian safety a major concern, the project will include improved crosswalks and new pavers, as well as improvements to median islands and landscaping. Plans also include converting high level street lighting to lower level pedestrian lighting. 

Other components of the project include the preservation and improvement of the neighborhood atmosphere. "Some treatments we're looking at are to bring the residential character back to the area," McKenna said. To some, the construction of the Albion high-rise building on the northwest corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue has compromised the neighborhood's charm.  According to McKenna, "Residents are concerned with the proximity of Albion." 

Financial backing for the Forest and Ontario Traffic Calming Project in part comes from Albion. Per the Planned Development Ordinance for its 18-story apartment building, Albion Residential is contributing $340,000 to the village to fund construction. Should that amount prove insufficient, the village will consider alternative, supplemental funding or modifying the project's scope. "Once we design, we will have a better idea of cost," McKenna said. Designs for the project are expected to be completed in January or February 2020 and the village plans to hire a contractor in the spring.

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