170 options for improving the Eisenhower

The Eisenhower expressway is a key artery for traffic entering and leaving Chicago. The public is now invited to look at plans, including 170 possible improvements, that have been developed and could be put into practice in the future:

In response, highway design engineers have come up with 170 different ideas to reduce gridlock and accidents on the Eisenhower. The plan also focuses on improving travel options for mass-transit riders and bicyclists and pedestrians using nearby arterial streets…

The possible solutions include widening the Eisenhower to four lanes in each direction for the entire length of the highway to make room for “managed lanes’’ that would handle car-poolers, express buses or drivers willing to pay tolls to commute more quickly during rush hours, according to IDOT planners.

An expansion of CTA Blue Line rail service, from its current terminus in Forest Park to DuPage County, and other new transit services are also on the table, officials said. They include a possible light-rail line and designating a bus-rapid transit corridor that would be open to express buses traveling between the suburbs and downtown at least part of the day…

Major improvements are needed because traffic volumes on the Eisenhower are up to 180,000 vehicles a day, making it one of the busiest and most congested expressways in the Chicago region, officials said.

It sounds like there are a lot of options on the table. As the article notes, this is now an issue because this road is handling much more traffic than was originally intended and the traffic is not just one-way (in to the city in the morning, out in the afternoon) but now goes both directions. I can also imagine that all of this will stir up some discussion: special toll lanes? Construction that will go on for years? More money spent on mass transit? It seems like multiple solutions are needed included getting more drivers off the road as well as improving the traffic flow along this stretch.

Of course, a lot of this is for down the road as the planning has to take place and the money has to be found:

So far funding is available only to continue preliminary engineering, which is expected to be wrapped up in the spring of 2013, officials said. Design would then take several more years.

“Part of our analysis is to examine the financing options,’’ Harmet said. “We are a ways away from construction.’’

While the discussion could just center on the Eisenhower, this could also lead to larger conversations about the role of highways and mass transit within metropolitan regions. If the Eisenhower, and other local highways, are continually issues, perhaps new things have to be tried and transportation has to be dealt with on a more comprehensive level within regions (see a study like this for a broader metropolitan approach).

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