Wednesday, June 29, 2016 || By Michael Romain ||@maywoodnews || @village_free || UPDATED: 6:16 p.m.
At a June 23 Maywood I-290 Advisory Working Group Meeting, Pete Harmet, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s chief of programming, laid out IDOT’s preferred option among the two that are in contention to be included in the final version of an estimated $2 billion expansion and modernization of 13 miles of the Eisenhower Expressway.
Both those options include major changes to Harrison St. and Bataan Dr. frontage roads between 1st and 25th Avenues, including the introduction of combination one- and two-way traffic along Harrison — a change that some residents found potentially confusing, but that IDOT says will mean better traffic circulation for local drivers.
Last Thursday’s meeting, held at the Maywood Multipurpose Building, was the fourth since the advisory group first met in January. In the beginning of the working group process, IDOT proposed six possible modernization scenarios — four of which entailed 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.
But the prospect of ramp closures was rejected by many residents, who feared that the closures would restrict access into, and out of, the village.
That left two modernization options, which were called Alternatives One and Six. Both would keep the ramps intact, while concentrating the majority of the changes at 1st Avenue.
Both options, Harmet noted, would also rebuild the interchange at 25th Avenue into what’s called a single point urban interchange. According to one expert transportation source, an SPUI “is a type of interchange where the arterial and ramp entrances/exits are controlled by a single traffic signal. This type of interchange can be more efficient than a standard diamond interchange and takes up less space.”
“You won’t be coming through side roads and cutting across traffic and so forth,” Harmet said. “It’ll take you right there. We’ve also proposed to move the traffic signal up to Van Buren and 25th Ave. That’s the same for both options.”
The two alternatives would also both involve aesthetic improvements and greater pedestrian and bike access with the installation of modernized traffic signals and wider sidewalks along crossing bridges, among other features.
Along 1st Avenue north of I-290, IDOT has proposed a raised barrier median along dual left turn lanes, “with a flush/painted median to the north for improved access to commercial development along 1st Avenue, Congress St., and the Eisenhower Tower,” according to an IDOT slide. A wide median would accommodate improved access.
“The difference between Alternatives One and Six is how things are designed at 1st Avenue,” Harmet said. “Everything beyond that interchange is exactly the same between the two alternatives.”
In Alternative One, traffic on Harrison St. and Bataan Dr. frontage road would go through 1st Avenue; in Alternative Six, Harrison St. frontage road traffic would connect to the entrance at the Checkers restaurant while Bataan Dr. would connect to 2nd Ave. (See below):
At 1st Avenue, Alternative One would have six pedestrian crossing points while Alternative Six would have four. The crossings, according to IDOT’s slide presentation, would likely take more than one traffic cycle for either alternative.
Harmet said that IDOT utilized cellphone data to determine the amount of through trips on Harrison St. and Bataan Dr. Around 90 percent of through trips Harrison St. and Bataan Dr. are non-local, he said, meaning those commuters aren’t stopping in Maywood.
IDOT is proposing a curbed median at the northern leg of 1st Avenue, said Harmet, adding that the addition is a standard approach. IDOT recommends Alternative Six, because it would entail fewer signal phases and improved efficiency at 1st Avenue, among other reasons; however, Harmet stressed that the recommendation is only preliminary, since their proposed plans haven’t been finalized.
Alternative Six would allow traffic to enter and exit Checkers from 5th Avenue and would allow for drivers the restaurant’s parking lot to access 1st Avenue. There would be two-way traffic between 5th and 3rd Avenues and one-way westbound traffic between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Harmet said the changes would give local drivers more circulation options.
Some attendees at last Thursday’s working group meeting, though, were skeptical of the updated travel routes on Harrison.
“That’s going to be confusing,” said resident Loretta Robinson. “You can go so far and you’re on a two-way street, but then you past [a point] and you’re on a one-way street. How are you going to show us how that’s an improvement when it’s confusion and not improvement.”
Robinson and other residents also had concerns about the impact the changes would have on Harrison’s width.
“A combination of one and two-way streets is common throughout the country,” Harmet said. “We handle it with signage and striping. But Harrison is really wide. It’s two lanes and then it has parking lanes. It’s probably 48 feet wide in some places, so in terms of a two-way street, you don’t need 48 feet. So, we’d fit [the Alternative Six changes] within the existing property that’s available.”
Storm water solutions
Harmet also noted that IDOT plans on installing a large drainage pipe under the frontage roads, which would connect with the main sewer pipe in order for more storm water to flow into the Des Plaines — instead of onto the Eisenhower, neighborhood streets and even into residents’ homes.
“Today, storm water comes off of village streets and waste water from your homes goes into the sink pipe eventually,” Harmet said. “Particularly with hard rains, that system gets overwhelmed and goes up onto the land and into houses. The overland flow eventually makes its way onto the Eisenhower, which is a bathtub.”
In addition to constructing a separate drainage pipe under frontage roads, IDOT would also construct a trunk sewer underneath the expressway in order to lessen the burden the combined sewer system that exists currently. Along with the additional piping, retaining walls would be built along frontage roads.
Harmet said that IDOT will be accepting comments from the public up until July 14. A fifth advisory working group meeting is scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, with a public town hall meeting scheduled sometime in August.
To see the complete IDOT presentation at the June 23 Working Group Meeting #4, click here. VFP
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C A N ‘ T M I S S E V E N T
This year will mark the 20th Anniversary of the annual Maywood Old Timers Picnic, one of Maywood’s most anticipated community-wide events that was started as a way to reconnect the village’s present with its past.
“I was running into people at funerals and visitations I hadn’t seen in years and we would sit and talk,” said Marilynn Jefferson, a longtime Maywoodian, now retired and living in Georgia, who helped establish the first Old Timers Picnic.
“I finally said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice where we had time we could all be together and it would not be a sad occasion?’” Jefferson reminisced during an interview at last year’s event.
Since its founding, the event has become a source of history for those interested in mining the village’s rich past.
This year, the picnic will be held on Aug. 20 at Maywood Veterans Memorial Park, 5th Ave. and Fred Hampton Way (or Oak St.).
Bring your family and friends. There will be food, fun and entertainment. For more information, call (708) 740-0747. Please leave a voicemail if you don’t get through.