The village should listen to its own study

Opinion: Columns

December 11th, 2018 1:06 PM

By Jerry Bowman

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On Nov. 26, a sharply divided village board approved the Madison Road Diet. Three trustees voted against the proposal. Trustees Button, Taglia and Tucker and the mayor voted in favor.

Much of the debate among board members focused on a new 300-plus-page traffic study, commissioned by the village and finalized only a week before the meeting. Here are some of its key findings:

Under Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidelines, Madison is not a good candidate for a road diet because its traffic volume is too great. The FHWA places roads that are candidates for road diet into four categories, ranging from "great" to a very tepid category 4. That category applies to roads with an average daily traffic volume greater than 20,000. Madison's average is well above that at just under 25,000 (p. 25).

 The traffic study goes on to consider peak hour traffic volumes (p. 24). For roads with peak-hour traffic volumes above 875, "the feasibility of a road diet is less likely." According to the study, Madison traffic volumes range from 725 to 1,187, well above the "less likely" number.

So what will a slimmer Madison result in? Again, the village's own report provides an answer:

 Intersections on Madison will degrade. Intersections are graded on a scale of A to F (p. 28). Madison intersections are currently graded "D or better" (p. 29). After the road diet, numerous intersections will degrade to a grade of E or F. An F intersection is described as, "The volume-to-capacity ratio is very high, progression [i.e., traffic flow] is very poor, and the cycle length [to clear the intersection] is long. Most cycles fail to clear the queue" (p. 28). In other words, at "most" times, people will not be able to get through the intersection in a single red-green signal cycle.

 Key north-south streets like Ridgeland and Oak Park Avenue will also see delays at the Madison intersections (p. 30). The Oak Park Avenue intersection, for example, will move from a C intersection to "E/F" (p. 30). Lines on Madison at that intersection are projected to extend east past Wesley Avenue (p. 35).

The village's consultant and author of the report also conceded that he and the village had no data or projections on diversions from Madison along the residential north-south side streets. South of Madison, these streets are almost entirely residential, but the village and its consultant did not study how many drivers will turn down these streets to avoid the degraded intersections on Madison. One trustee noted this and said that he expected a parade of citizens coming to future board meetings seeking cul-de-sacs and other control measures. I am sure he is correct.

Equally alarming, the consultant conceded that "minor" accidents on Madison will actually increase with a road diet!

This brand new study has convinced me that we are moving ahead with a multimillion-dollar project unsupported by the data. Yes, we need action on Madison. Yes, we need to revitalize that business district. Yes, we need enhanced safety measures at Madison intersections. But all of this can be done without a road diet "less likely to succeed." And all of this can be done without diverting traffic past schools on Washington and Jackson or down residential streets filled with young children. As a dissenting trustee pointed out, we in Oak Park need to make data-based decisions. The village board failed that test.

Jerry Bowman is a lifelong resident of Oak Park.

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  • David Quinlan (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 16th, 2018 8:25 PM

    Calling it right now. The road diet blows up in the village's face and they have to spend even more money changing it back. It's the Oak Park Way

  • Al Berggren from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 13th, 2018 6:04 PM

    Before spending Millions on the Madison Street Diet, why not invest a few thousand dollars in traffic cones and sawhorses to narrow Madison Street to one-lane in each direction and see what the consequences would be. I've been in Oak Park for over 50 years and remember The Stankus Hole, Closing Lake Street for The Mall, Spending over $500,000 to Landscape The Mall, Removing the Mall Landscaping 2 years later, Giving Whiteco $15 Million so they could cash-out in a few years and leave us with structural repairs for the garage they built, Walking from the Taxman deal so that WE could pay for the remediation, etc, etc. Using a little common sense now could save us taxpayers Million$.

  • Michael O'Malley (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 13th, 2018 1:31 PM

    The road diet will not be sustainable. In a couple of years, after some nasty accidents and a few ruined neighborhoods, another board will vote to reverse the diet. The only good thing about this idiocy is that the "Mayor" didn't get the bend.

  • Alice Caputo (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 13th, 2018 10:40 AM

    If the report states there will be more accidents this will be a personal injury attorney's dream come true. In fact, I'm sure they are collecting the reports and transcripts in anticipation. Most private developer's would run away from a project with a report like this. The City uses our's like Monopoly money.

  • Ada Johnson Tikkanen (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 13th, 2018 5:34 AM

    Jerry - thank you so much for being the first person who has explained this in a way that makes sense. I will honestly say - I thought tszujing up Madison would be a great idea until I read this.

  • Jeffrey Smith (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 13th, 2018 4:30 AM

    PS: This is what happens when a fish monger is elected "Mayor." A Village rots from the head down.

  • Jeffrey Smith (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 13th, 2018 4:25 AM

    This is Republicanism writ large - money über alles, no matter what it does to our quality of life. I don't care what party these people *say they belong to - they're errand boys for the moneyed class and will leave Oak Park with a degraded infrastructure and an uglier environment. Abu-Taleb has been a disaster for Oak Park and the only consolation is that the people who elected him will be suffering from the damage he's done, too.

  • Bob Pawlowski (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 12th, 2018 10:01 PM

    Oak Park is slowly becoming a "failed experiment". Remember when the focus was on diversity and things that mattered? Now, it's high rises, raising taxes (D200, hello!) and "road diets".

  • Ray Simpson (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 12th, 2018 9:10 PM

    step lightly, I was an employee of Barton-Ascman Assoc. in Evanston 55 years ago and the first project I worked on was the taking traffic off of Lake Street and developing a pedestrian mall. In the late 1960's it was cutting edge and was intended to counter Oakbrook Mall and save Lytons, Marshall Fields and so many others that are only remembered by gray hair old folks. Back then I remember Ted Aschman telling us that "City Planning" was a nice idea but to remember that urban sprawl has always happened and traffic and tall buildings always happen first along highways and transit lines - we fit that criteria. Madison has the beginnings of a medical campus for the Western suburbs and we should look kindly on that sort of development. Has anyone asked Rush Medical what they would envision for their neighborhood? They seem to be pretty good at development and building.

  • Vince Bray from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 12th, 2018 8:57 PM

    What an awesome plan! Let's make Madison is difficult to navigate as Lake Street, so we can avoid it too. It's working so well up there. The only thing that they could do to make it better on Madison would be to put in a bunch of 20 or 30 story buildings with five levels of parking on the bottom. it's working so well up there. The only thing that they could do to make it better at Madison would be to put in a bunch of 20 or 30 story buildings with several levels parking on the bottom Then life would be complete .

  • Bruce Kline (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 12th, 2018 8:08 PM

    Actually, Mr. McCarthy we should not wait to vote in people who care about what is best "starting with a new mayor." The mayor is up for reelection in 2021. One incumbent board member is up for reelection this coming spring: Mr. James Taglia - who like the mayor chose to ignore the data in regard to the road diet. We should start with Mr. Taglia and go from there.

  • Brian Slowiak (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 12th, 2018 6:49 PM

    Instead of a road diet, the Village should put in a pedestrian mall. Business death will take a while, life support and hospice for the business and surrounding community will be short. Then the Village can start again with a new, meaning old plan that is at best, below average and over rated.

  • Ryan McCarthy from Oak Park (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 12th, 2018 6:22 PM

    This will also cause increased traffic through the neighborhoods other east west streets. Washington Blvd, Adams, Jackson will all be used even more to get around the Madison St traffic. This town doesn't leave well enough alone. Time to vote in some people who care about what's best for the people of this town, starting with a new mayor.

  • Ellen Edwards (Facebook Verified)

    Posted: December 12th, 2018 5:27 PM

    Thanks, Jerry Bowman, for this data-supported opinion piece. I agree and am eager to vote in new trustees who do use data to make decisions- oh yes, and also common sense, which is getting more and more rare on all of our government boards.

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