The Village Board will hold a special meeting on Mon., Sept. 30 to brief the community on the status of planning for the proposed Eisenhower Expressway/I-290 reconstruction. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. at Irving School, 1125 S. Cuyler Ave. Doors will open at 6 p.m.
The meeting will include updates from Village staff and transportation planning experts. A representative from the CTA also will be on hand to discuss how the project might impact the Blue Line and ways to improve service, including potential westward extension.
Several options for easing congestion are under consideration by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for when it rebuilds the seven-mile stretch of the Eisenhower between Mannheim Road and Cicero Avenue. The expressway narrows to three lanes through this segment of The Ike passing through Oak Park, contributing to frequent traffic jams.
IDOT recently winnowed potential reconstruction alternatives to four and says it will choose a final preferred alternative by late 2014. Although construction would not start for several years, Village officials fear that an IDOT decision to pursue a specific plan would be difficult to undo.
Village Board members and staff have attended 18 IDOT Corridor Advisory Group (CAG) meetings over the past four years on behalf of the community. The CAG is made up primarily of public officials and technical experts, with little participation by the general public. Former Village Trustee Rick Kuner also has engaged with IDOT in his role as founder of a local advocacy group, Citizens for Appropriate Transportation.
After taking office in May, the Village Board established as one of its top priorities mitigating negative impacts from Eisenhower reconstruction while also exploring potential community benefits. A special Board meeting at Irving School was one of the Board’s strategies to engage residents around these goals.
“The time is now for the broader Oak Pak community to engage. After years of studies and planning that only an engineer could love, IDOT has reached a pivotal point,” said Village President Anan Abu-Taleb.
“Reconstruction of the Eisenhower will have a significant impact on Oak Park and we want to provide the community with ample information and opportunity to help ensure that these changes will be more positive than negative – and that we can also address lingering effects of construction of this section of the Ike in the 1960s,” he said.
IDOT is considering moving exit and entrance ramps at Harlem and Austin avenues to the right side of the expressway, closer to neighborhoods. Reconstruction also could bring wider bridges across the Ike to create more room for pedestrians, cyclists and perhaps retail activity. Integrating Blue Line improvement and eventual westward extension could be another benefit if handled correctly, Village officials say.
“This process presents an opportunity to improve the existing Blue Line and build the infrastructure needed to extend service to our west, which is vitally important to Oak Park as well as to neighboring communities,” said Abu-Taleb. “The Village is committed to making sure that options around Blue Line improvement are included in this plan. We will encourage collaboration between IDOT and the CTA on timing, sequencing and funding.”
IDOT has scheduled its own public forums on the Eisenhower project Oct. 7 at the Marriott Hotel, at 625 S. Ashland Ave., in Chicago and Oct. 8 at the Proviso Math and Science Academy, 8601 W. Roosevelt Road, Forest Park.