For the better part of a decade, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has been contemplating how to improve travel along the antiquated Eisenhower corridor – a stretch of Interstate 290 that extends from Chicago’s Loop to the western suburbs.

IDOT began to seriously, and publicly, express determination to revamp the half century old highway in 2001. In doing so, it invited representatives from Cook County and DuPage County governments, as well as officials from eight municipalities that will be directly affected by any construction, to hearings to discuss the project’s direction and impact.

Village Administrator Tim Gillian noted there was much buzz surrounding the talks when 10 years ago. But, he added, discussions were quickly put on the backburner a year later. This was because IDOT had to focus its energy on sponsoring a “transit-only” study that the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) conducted in 2002, according to Pete Harmet, bureau chief of programming for IDOT. The study found that improvements to rapid transit along the corridor and around the proximity would alleviate congestion on the highway. Well, no kidding.Ê

So, here we are, nine years later, and IDOT has teamed up with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which will see to it that the project adheres to national environmental standards; and the consulting firm, PB Americas, Inc. to continue planning for another four years.

But, the project team wants you to know, Mr. or Ms. Citizen, that you, too, are on board; your thoughts matter and your input is a “key component” to the overall project. The group maintains that the public’s say will be “considered” when future plans are hatched.

If that’s the case, great. The highway needs to be fixed in addition to the recent resurfacing that was done. What’s more, it’s time we get serious about improving rapid transit, so we can get some of those cars off the road – in part to reduce the environmental impact, but also to deal with the traffic so many of us have experienced.

We’ll state again that reinventing the Ike through Forest Park has to keep the traffic lanes, the rapid transit and the freight lines within the current ditch. Taking additional land from Forest Park to make it easier for people to commute to the Loop from Sugar Grove is not in our interest.

Those are our thoughts. But, the project is encouraging the greater public to have its say, as well. To do so, citizens can e-mail comments; send letters via snail mail; or they can attend public meetings. Sounds democratic, and efficient, right?

While public input might be taken, we can only guess whether it will actually be “considered” once it comes time to break ground somewhere. Note that only two “public meetings,” which citizens are encouraged to attend, have been held in as many years; the most recent was an open forum at Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park last month.

It’s difficult for us to see how the average person is going to stay abreast on this issue and offer his or her “input” when meetings are held once every two years. Because of that, we wonder how much “input” there really is to “consider.”

But, to IDOT’s credit, Gillian (who has attended multiple meetings) noted that, in his experience, the agency has always been receptive to the concerns of municipalities. At least, they’re listening to someone. Or, are they?