Forest Park residents have approved installing two noise-buffering walls along the north side of the Eisenhower Expressway as part of the state’s highway expansion plan, but it could be another decade before the project gets underway.
The noise walls were given the OK with little controversy in Forest Park, where the walls will run from Harlem to Circle Avenue and from Circle Avenue to Desplaines Avenue.
In Oak Park, however, the question has been more controversial, with only about half of residents saying yes.
Residents and businesses along the south side of the expressway in Oak Park voted against the walls, except for a stretch running between Home and Oak Park avenues. On the north side of the highway, residents voted mainly in favor of the walls, except between from Home and East avenues.
That means that in Oak Park four noise walls will be installed on the north side of the highway and one will be installed on the south side.
The walls are expected to be 13 to 17 feet tall.
Federal highway construction guidelines require asking neighbors within a small proximity to the highway whether they want the walls to reduce noise from the thousands of vehicles that pass by daily.
Oak Park neighbors and elected officials have criticized the noise wall vote because the project is years away. At a Feb. 22 village board meeting, trustees and Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb argued that having noise walls on some blocks and not others would create an unsightly sawtooth effect.
Abu-Taleb said at that meeting that IDOT should hold a third round of voting as the project gets closer to construction.
He reiterated that sentiment upon learning of the final results.
“We don’t want to have this kind of missing-tooth scenario if we can help it,” he said.
Abu-Taleb has argued that the village should try to appeal the decision to the Federal Highway Authority and have another vote years from now. He said translucent walls, rather than the concrete walls under the current plan, would be potentially more aesthetically pleasing.
Pete Harmet, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s head of the I-290 expansion project, said in a telephone interview that IDOT still is working on the possibility of a third round of voting with village officials, but nothing has yet been determined.
He said IDOT is working to identify “what we can do to satisfy those concerns.”