Although plans for the Roosevelt Road revitalization project continue to move forward, the project will not include a so-called “road diet” or shrinking of driving lanes down to one in either direction to better accommodate pedestrians and parking.
At the village council’s Sept. 14 meeting, Stephen Sugg, a project manager with Christopher Burke Engineering told commissioners and assembled municipal staff that incorporating a road diet was unrealistic, based on the $5,000 study commissioned by the council in June. The road diet update came as part of an overview presentation by Sugg and his colleague, James Amelio, another Burke engineer, about the entire construction project.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has jurisdiction over Roosevelt Road and therefore must approve any changes to the thoroughfare. As Sugg noted in an interview with the Review, a reduction in driving lanes is counter to IDOT’s mission of ensuring efficient traffic patterns.
The study used a simple ‘A’ through ‘F’ service rating system, similar to educational grades, to assess Forest Park’s section of Roosevelt Road. Currently, Roosevelt is graded as an ‘A’, the best possible.
“[Right now] there is less than 10 seconds of delay for the average motorist,” Sugg said.
If the road diet were included in construction plans, Sugg said, the average delay would increase to an “intolerable” 80 seconds, and the road would be downgraded to an ‘F’.
Acknowledging that Burke had not yet brought the request to IDOT, instead opting to inform the council first, Sugg added, “Our guess is that IDOT will not look at the [road diet] favorably.”
Although the plan that Amelio and Sugg presented did not include the diet, there are several other scheduled improvements The $4.7 million project, which will be financed with a $2.3 million IDOT contribution, coupled with $2.4 million in village funds, includes new parkway trees, gateway signs at both the east and west boundaries of the construction and “ornamental” street lighting. The plan does not include bike lanes, but Commissioner Tom Mannix added his support for other accommodations for cyclists, like bike racks.
“I think it is always nice to include some bike amenities,” he said.
Commissioner Joe Byrnes asked about remedying the irregular distribution of parking meters outside businesses along Roosevelt Road.
“It would behoove us to do something like that … [only] their customers have to pay.”
Commissioner Rachel Entler asked if the plan adequately addressed safety concerns at pedestrian crosswalks, especially near schools.
“Crossing [Roosevelt Road] at Circle Avenue is awful,” she said. “It would be nice to see whether we can shorten the walkway a little bit without completely disrupting traffic … but somehow making it a little safer for the crossing guards and parents.”
Noting the commissioners’ concerns, the Burke engineers acknowledged that continued input from municipal officials, residents and business owners is necessary as the project moves forward. Amelio told the Review the suggestions made at Monday’s meeting will most likely increase the $4.7 price tag included in the presentation.
Asked if the $2.4 million IDOT contribution will be affected by the state budget turmoil in Springfield, Sugg said, “We don’t anticipate that, but we really can’t answer that.”
Amelio added that, currently, the $2.4 million is earmarked for the Roosevelt project.
The evolving plans will be addressed again next week. There is a public meeting, intended to include interested residents and business owners, scheduled for Sept. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. in the lower level of village hall.