Oak Park residents sound off on proposal for cosmetic surgery at Austin Boulevard and Harlem Avenue. Lauren Jiggetts reports.
The Illinois Department of Transportation wants a right-handed switch to two ramps on Interstate 290.
Though funding and construction plans remain far off, Oak Park's village board on Monday heard IDOT's proposal for major cosmetic surgery at Austin Boulevard and Harlem Avenue.
IDOT wants to move left-lane access to and from the Eisenhower Expressway at Austin and Harlem interchanges to the right, in part to lower the number of accidents.
"The left-handed exits are high crash hotspots," said IDOT bureau chief of programming Pete Harmet. "They don’t work very well in terms of traffic backups, congestion concerns, connecting to transit and they are not pedestrian friendly."
Compared to other Chicago area expressways, the Eisenhower sees about 2,000 more crashes per year, according to IDOT.
The initiative comes as part of a larger I-290 improvement project resulting from an environmental impact study conducted since fall of 2009 on an eight-mile stretch of the Eisenhower Expressway from Mannheim Road to Cicero Avenue.
But Oak Park has some concerns
Assistant Village Manager Rob Cole said IDOT’s conceptual meeting in May didn't cover potential drawbacks such as noise, air pollution, more truck traffic and other adverse impacts.
"We are not entirely sold on the idea of the ramps are dangerous," Cole said. "But we are not closed-minded when it comes to discussions and deliberations surrounding what IDOT has developed."
He said the village also is concerned about pedestrian safety and access to public transportation on the I-290 median.
"One of our chief concerns will be making sure whatever these designs the IDOT considers, none of them would require the highway to be expanded beyond its current footprint," said Cole.
Harmet said planning is still in early stages but has added more focus.
"We have a number of ideas we were looking at and one was to have the ramps on the outside instead of on the inside," said Harmet. Left-hand ramps have a 49 percent higher crash rate when compared right-hand ramps, he said.
Funding has only been allocated for the I-290 study, Harmet said. Future funding is a part of the planning process which is scheduled to be completed in 2014.