‘Road diet” is the in-vogue term among urban planners for the simple concept of slowing automobile traffic by reducing the number of traffic lanes. Monday night Forest Park’s village council took up the cause as it OK’d a $5,000 contract with its engineering consultant to conduct a traffic analysis along Roosevelt Road.
The goal, said Mayor Anthony Calderone, is to gather the data necessary to make a case for fewer lanes to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) which has near total control over this state route. And as Calderone succinctly put it, “IDOT’s mission is moving traffic.” That means IDOT doesn’t much care about making Roosevelt Road pedestrian- or bike-friendly, more appealing to retailers or restaurants.
We understand the strong interest in slowing and reducing traffic on Roosevelt Road so that the village can attempt to substantially change the feel and the purpose of this street. IDOT may be singularly focused on moving cars quickly on Roosevelt from the city to the suburbs. Forest Park wants to scale it down to a shopping destination where people could spend time, cross the street safely, shop and dine. Something between the intimacy of Madison Street and the Autobahn.
Several commissioners pointed during Monday’s discussion to the shared efforts of Oak Park, Berwyn and Cicero in remaking their shared stretch of Roosevelt from Austin to Harlem several years ago. We’d agree there are lessons to be learned though circumstances were different and the lessons are not all positive.
A few points:
The actual remaking of Roosevelt — some $7 million — was paid for almost entirely through federal and state grants. It was a long, hard push led by Oak Park to get those funds. And those are monies that have largely dried up given national political nonsense and the state’s financial meltdown.
The resurgence of Roosevelt Road is almost entirely on the Berwyn side of the street. That town’s creative and ambitious use of TIF funds to lure and to support key private investments has made a world of difference. Oak Park has no Roosevelt TIF and so it now features a more handsome street fronting the same old sad-sack businesses or vacancies.
Remaking Roosevelt Road is an essential effort for Forest Park, its vibrant future and its expanding tax base. But it will take a nimble balance of updating the physical nature of the street, attracting the right private investment and managing limited funds to pull this off.
Proviso rethinks security
On the same night it fired two security guards for their inability to stop a student fight in a Proviso Township high school, the District 209 school board also began an essential rethinking of how it approaches student discipline and security in its troubled buildings.
Ahead even of facing up to academic failings, this district must find a new path to creating school communities that are safe and in which discipline is both fair and focused on salvaging students, not off-loading them.
We have no illusions this is an easy path. There is also no doubt that the current approaches to discipline and security are fully broken.