An Oak Park transportation expert, who has been following the Illinois Department of Transportation’s plans to expand I-290 for more than 10 years, says an extra lane on the Eisenhower is a waste of money for minimal benefit.

Forest Park would figure in a better plan, he says: Expand the CTA Blue Line to Maywood and beyond.

Rick Kuner, a former Oak Park village trustee and urban planner is a member of Citizens for Appropriate Transportation, an ad hoc committee of volunteer local transportation experts and urban planners who have been following IDOT plans for expansion of the Ike.

Kuner says he likes one plan that IDOT is proposing – a “multimodal” solution, with the CTA expanding the Blue Line for three more stops: First Avenue in Maywood, 25th Street, and near Mannheim Road in Hillside. This would be the “best transportation answer, not the best highway answer,” Kuner said.

The CTA owns an easement through Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park, Kuner says, that reaches all the way to the Desplaines River. The easement has no graves on it, he says.

In the late 1950s when the Eisenhower Expressway was built, hundreds of graves were displaced and remains exhumed and moved – a lengthy and bureaucratic process that added time and expense to the project.

To extend the Blue line, the CTA would have to extend their tracks from the terminus at Desplaines and build a bridge over the river, he said. “The First Avenue station ideally would be near the Maybrook courthouse.”

The three proposed station locations appear on the IDOT website

Kuner said his committee thinks the argument that adding an extra lane to the Eisenhower will help congestion is “disingenuous.” IDOT studies indicate that adding an extra lane would decrease traffic to 16 hours a day from 17 hours, in non-high-occupancy lanes. “For one billion dollars, I don’t think that’s a good return on investment because if they really want to make an impact on congestion, they would have to build a 12- to 14-lane highway – and that would cause World War III,” he said. “If they really want to cut down on congestion, they need to open up transit.”

IDOT would not construct an expanded rail line; that would be done by the CTA, Kuner said. Originally, CTA and IDOT considered hypothetical plans to extend the Blue Line all the way to Oak Brook, but Kuner says studies show that 70 percent of riders would come from Hillside and points east.

Kuner admits that the highway is reaching the end of its useful life, and IDOT will soon have to bego9in rebuilding it. When that happens, whether four lanes or three, it’s likely that ramps will be switched from the left to right sides at Harlem in Forest Park. He says the ramps, as currently presented by IDOT will not gobble up property near the highway, as they stay within the “footprint” of the expressway. But as designed, he notes, the ramps will be significantly taller and “contribute more air and noise pollution.”

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...