Carpool lanes, tolls on table for Eisenhower Expressway revamp
At a meeting Thursday in Oak Park, state officials discussed four remaining options for revamping the Eisenhower Expressway to relieve congestion on the highway. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 22, 2013 2:35PM
OAK PARK — Carpool lanes and tolls are a strong possibility on a revamped Eisenhower Expressway.
That was among the news to come out of a meeting Thursday morning at the Carleton Hotel in Oak Park.
Three of the four alternatives still being studied by the Illinois Department of Transportation call for car-pool lanes. Two of the alternatives call for at least one toll lane on a reconstructed Eisenhower.
All the alternatives call for adding a fourth lane between Mannheim Road and Austin Boulevard and for high-capacity transit, in the form of some combination of express busses and/or a Blue Line extension. The proposed rail project would extend the Blue Line from Des Plaines Avenue west to Mannheim.
At Thursday’s meeting, IDOT officials told members of the Corridor Advisory Group and Task Force that the 12 alternatives initially being studied have been whittled down to four.
Those options are:
- A general-purpose lane added in each direction between Mannheim and Austin and either the Blue Line extension and an express bus from Mannheim to Interstate 88 or the express bus running all the way from Des Paines Avenue to I-88.
- An additional lane in each direction for high-occupancy vehicles (two or more people), as well as the bus and train options.
− An additional lane in each direction for high-occupancy/toll vehicles (having three or more occupants), as well as the bus and train options.
− The existing lanes all being converted to toll lanes and an additional lane in each direction specifically for cars with three or more occupants.
Andrea Green, a representative of the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory, said she was concerned about the impact toll lanes would have on struggling individuals and visitors to the area.
“You will cause confusion for people without transponders,” Green said. “You will have local people having to decide whether to take the toll road or not, trying to manage ... This will probably affect low-income people.”
Pete Harmet, IDOT bureau chief of programming, said his agency understands that adding tolls on the Eisenhower would divert some traffic onto arterial streets and that will be given additional study. He noted that people without transponders would have a way to pay online and that a discount or no toll at all could be charged to individuals qualifying for the carpool lanes, should a toll option be the final decision for the roadway revamp.
Oak Park Village President David Pope said it is important that the Eisenhower expansion and the possible Blue Line extension are addressed in tandem, that there be a “multi-mode” approach area transportation.
“It would be the equivalent of someone going out to win the Super Bowl and planning on getting the right quarterback, running back, receivers, tight end and line for the offense,” Pope said.
“That person goes out and gets the quarterback, but without someone to hand-off to or throw to that team is not going to win the Super Bowl.”