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Oak Parkers Cool to Eisenhower Ramp Plans

Residents voice opposition to an IDOT proposal that would switch location of Eisenhower ramps to and from Oak Park.

A proposal to shift the location of the Eisenhower Expressway's Harlem Avenue and Austin Boulevard on and off ramps was met with opposition by Oak Park residents and officials, who instead are calling for upgrades to public transit options to alleviate congestion.

The plan, presented by the Illinois Department of Public Transportation at Monday's Oak Park Village Board meeting, featured 10 different scenarios, all geared toward improving traffic flow on the heavily trafficked roadway. The plans include a widening of the expressway, adding a paid carpool lane and extending the CTA Blue Line. All of the scenarios call for the addition of an expressway lane in each direction.

One of the more controversial proposals would reconfigure local entrance and exit ramps on the expressway. That drew the ire of residents and some village officials.

Resident Frank Stachyra was concerned with the new higher elevation and larger footprint of the proposed ramps. Traffic noise is already "bothersome and annoying," he said.

"What's it going to be with a higher ramp that takes it further east, which will take it all the Wenonah? It's bad enough now, so sound is definitely a problem. And is sound is going to be a problem with the addition of another lane?"

To view the meeting in its entirety and watch the public comment portion, click here.

Trustee Collette Lueck seemed to be guarding the interests of Oak Park against the broader scope of the regional project.

“We’re much more interested in having an urban transit-based community than transportation scenarios that improve the highway for people who live in Naperville,” she said. (Via TribLocal)

It's all part of major renovations planned for an eight-mile stretch of the Eisenhower Expressway, from Cicero Avenue to Mannheim Road. A sweeping "problem statement" authored in 2009 outlines a number of issues with the corridor — congestion, aging infrastructure, pollution, lack of public transit options, slow transit service and more.

That area, IDOT officials said, sees about 2,000 crashes per year — "a higher crash rate than the other urban expressways in the Chicago area," said IDOT's Pete Harmet.

Across the country, IDOT officials said, left-handed ramps have a 49 percent higher crash rate than right-handed ramps. (Here's a link the national traffic study they're quoting from for that figure.)

But local planning officials have taken umbrage with IDOT's stats, at least as they pertain to Oak Park.

"There is no real consensus indicating that left side ramps are inherently dangerous," assistant village manager Rob Cole told Wednesday Journal. "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."

The first phase of the Eisenhower project, the so-called environmental impact study, is complete, officials said. There is no funding in place yet for the second phase, which would see construction drawings take shape. That could be done by 2014.

The final phase, the actual construction, could begin by 2017. An IDOT spokesman said "everything is on the table," to find funding for the project, including tolling.

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