A screenshot of a video of IDOT’s 1st Avenue single point interchange concept. | File
Tuesday, March 1, 2016 || By Michael Romain
During a meeting in Maywood last December, Pete Harmet, a bureau chief with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), informed area residents that he was hoping that the Maywood Board of Trustees approve a resolution of support for a proposed $2 billion expansion of I-290 before going into a public hearing about the plans after they’ve been mostly finalized, which he projected could be this spring.
But he and IDOT may have some serious legwork before them before that happens, judging from responses by various local elected officials to the part of the massive 13-mile project that entails closing off a series of Maywood exit ramps.
IDOT has proposed closing the entrance and exit ramps at 9th Avenue and the westward ramp at 17th Avenue in order to mitigate safety concerns and free up space along the Eisenhower between 1st and 25th Avenues.
“We’ve got a bunch of interchanges in about a mile and a half area,” Harmet said at the December meeting, adding that the congestion correlates with elevated crash rates. “Sections of the Eisenhower with left-side ramps have the highest crash rates and the next-highest crash rate was this section between 25th and 1st Avenues.”
Expressing an opinion held by several residents in attendance, one resident angrily asked Harmet whether the Maywood Board of Trustees agreed to IDOT’s proposal, since the village is “the only suburb whose access to I-290 will be eliminated.”
Harmet said that there will still be access to Maywood at 1st, 17th and 25th Avenues, but access at 17th Avenue will be limited to those traveling to and from the east. The connection to Harrison at 1st Avenue will not exist under IDOT’s current proposal.
But Maywood trustees, and many area residents, still aren’t appeased.
At their March 1 regular meeting, members of the Maywood Board of Trustees expressed their extreme disapproval of the plans.
“I, along with other officials–senators and other people–were completely disarrayed by what [IDOT] wants to do,” said Trustee Melvin Lightford, who noted that he was in attendance at the most recent working group meeting held last week.
“They still believe they can close off our neighborhood, our streets,” he said. “They didn’t do it to Oak Park, but they think they can do it to us … I don’t think that’s fair and our people are fighting for it.”
“As long as they keep 9th and 17th Avenues available to our residents they can do whatever they please,” said Trustee Antoinette Dorris. “I think we should take an approach that if they are going to widen or make the drainage better on I-290, we want to be apart of that update, just do not close our exits.”
The controversial measure has even been a campaign topic in the 7th District state representative race, with incumbant state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch mentioning what he believes will be the negative impact of the proposed closures during a Feb. 29 candidates’ forum in Broadview and even mailing out petitions for residents to sign expressing their discontent for the plan.
“As you may know, the Illinois Department of Transportation, IDOT, is currently looking for ways it can ease congestion, reduce flooding and reduce noise pollution to neighboring homes,” reads one petition letter. ” I support these goals and some of their proposed changes, but I do not agree that expressway ramps on 9th and 17th streets should be closed to help create carpool lanes on the expressway.”
“People in our community use those entrances and exits every day to be able to work, run errands and visit family. Closing the ramps would inconvenience members of our community on a daily basis and make it more difficult for individuals to shop at local stores, worship at our churches and visit with family and friends.”
A second I-290 working group meeting for the Maywood area will be held on March 24, 6 PM to 8 PM, at the Multipurpose Building, 200 S. 5th Ave., Maywood. Another meeting, intended for elected officials, IDOT officials and community representatives, will be held on March 10, 2 PM, at Meal of the Day Cafe, located inside the Eisenhower Tower, 1701 S. 1st Ave., Maywood. VFP
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