The long-awaited project to reconstruct Interstate I-290 proposed by the Illinois Department of Transportation might have some benefits for the Village of Oak Park.
According to IDOT, this project calls for the following: the rebuilding of interchanges at Harlem Avenue and Austin Boulevard, increasing the expressway’s capacity of six lanes to eight lanes, and moving the entrance and exit ramps of the expressway from the left to the right side. If this project were to go under way in the next few years as hoped by IDOT, it would “reduce traffic delays while increasing safety for pedestrians and bicyclists navigating the area,” according to Village staff and IDOT officials.
The proposed upgrades for the interchanges at Harlem and Austin include adding two left-turn lanes in each direction exiting I-290. This proposition is estimated to reduce delay on both roads by 86 and 76 percent, according to Village Engineer Bill McKenna.
These upgrades were proposed in response to “insufficient capacity on the I-290 exit ramps,” said McKenna. Green light times for vehicles exiting the expressway were increased because of this but have only made traffic and congestion on Harlem and Austin worse.
This reconstruction project, which has been described by Village Manager Cara Pavlicek as a “complex topic” with no room for shortcuts, also includes benefits for pedestrians. New countdown walk signals, pedestrian islands between expressway ramps, improved sidewalks, and space for bicycle parking and plaza areas in front of the Blue Line stations on Harlem and Austin are included with the I-290 reconstruction plans.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Pavlicek said that the Village Board should meet at least four more times to discuss the I-290 proposal. Oak Park residents have raised their concerns over increased noise and pollution as a by-product of the reconstruction. “According to a village memo, a noise study should be available in August for public review,” said McKenna. According to officials, IDOT is currently working on an environmental impact statement for the project.
This summer, a 3-D model of the proposed reconstruction of I-290 will be publicly displayed for Oak Park residents (though location of this model is yet to be determined). At the end of the year, Oak Park will be presenting IDOT with a letter of intent to “establish mutually agreed-upon design elements for the project, specify cost sharing plans, and document other terms and conditions,” according to the Tribune.