Oak Park pushes for mass transit to ease congestion on Ike- Trib local

By Jim JaworskiTribLocal reporter Wednesday at 10:50 a.m.

 

Oak Park officials are trying to rally support for mass transit improvements to the Eisenhower Expressway, all while criticizing a state study that suggests such additions won’t ease congestion.

Oak Park officials have long opposed any improvements to I-290 that would focus on vehicles instead of the Blue Line. It has long been a goal of Oak Park to have the Blue Line extended west. That is still under consideration by the Illinois Department of Transportation, but Oak Park officials are criticizing a study that they think undermines positives of mass transit while underplaying negatives from more lanes or other vehicle-based modifications.

“The model works in some ways is that the past predicts the future,” said Assistant Village Manager Rob Cole. “It doesn’t really consider that you can change the future with the type of investments you make. … It doesn’t effectively account for changes in behavior, because it looks at what traditionally transit ridership has been and it doesn’t really, I believe, anticipate well what a brand new, reliable, affordable and efficient transit alternative can do in terms of people modifying their behavior.”

The village board heard a presentation from Cole on the IDOT impact study Monday night. Trustees plan to  discuss the issue at a later time, but the date has not yet been determined.

The IDOT plan, which is still under review, suggests a variety of options, such as adding a lane, making car pool lanes, expanding the CTA Blue Line west to Oak Brook, or express bus routes to DuPage County. Another concept, Cole said, was to shorten the Blue Line and replace it with a rapid transit bus. Oak Park officials are not the only ones in support of the Blue Line expansion, as some groups in the western suburbs also favor that plan.

Complaints from Oak Park officials are that any expansion or creation of car pool lanes would not actually reduce congestion or save people time. For example, Cole said a carpool lane, per the IDOT study, could reduce travel times by 2.3 minutes for drivers, but Cole said any advantage would be easily wiped out by the extra time needed to pick up people.

Trustee Bob Tucker agreed and compared adding lanes to addressing an obesity problem by “buying bigger pants.”

As for the Blue Line expansion, the study said there would be no congestion relief, but would have the greatest decrease in “vehicle miles traveled” throughout the region. Cole called that conclusion contradictory.

“I’m not sure where that particular divergence comes from, but that seems like a disconnect,” he said.

IDOT is about halfway through the I-290 study process, which is expected to last until 2013. All information on plans, studies and future meetings are available at www.eisenhowerexpressway.com.

 

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