Residents Start Petition to Fight IDOT’s Circle Interchange Project

Condo board president David Lewis shows the approximate height of the top of the retaining wall that would be 7.5 feet away from the building
Condo board president David Lewis indicates the height and proximity of a ramp.

The residents of 400 S Green Street, the building where the Illinois Department of Transportation plans to build a new highway ramp just a few feet away, have begun a petition to rally neighbors in opposition to the project.

The proposed flyover is part of IDOT’s $400 million Circle Interchange expansion, a project that the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s myriad committees allowed onto the funding list for the GO TO 2040 regional plan, even though it conflicts with the plan’s commitments to transit, livability, and sustainability.

IDOT’s “preferred alternative” for the project, known as Alternative 7.1C, calls for building a highway ramp next to 400 S Green, while a different variation, which IDOT rejected in mysterious fashion, would avoid building the new ramp.

Asserting that “the inclusion of the flyovers in an urban environment divides communities, creates unsafe viaducts, and increases noise and pollution,” the petition lists the many reasons people tend to not want flyovers or highway ramps outside their windows. For example:

Overpass structures create a darker and dirtier environment. Threatening to pedestrians. This ramp will also be located outside the Halsted Street Blue Line station where people need to wait for buses and enter/exit the station.

Some signers are leaving comments about how Alternative 7.1C would affect Chicagoans:

300 South Green residents have hung an "IDOT: Don't destroy our homes!" banner on the building facing the Ike. Photo by John Greenfield.

This will make my friend’s home 20 feet away from passing cars traffic, noise, and pollution – he will not be able to ever open his windows or have a quiet moment ever again… -C.J.

Find an alternate that doesn’t affect the 1000’s of residents in the local neighborhood. This doesn’t benefit us and will cost us in decreased property values! -E.K.

E.K. is right in saying it doesn’t benefit nearby residents. CMAP’s own analysis showed an increase in carbon emissions, an increase in car traffic, and a decrease in transit ridership as a result of the Circle Interchange project.
  • Adam Herstein

    I still think that the simplest solution to mitigating traffic on the Circle Interchange is to switch which highways in the region are tolled. As it stands now, all the highways entering the city are free, while all that bypass it are tolled.

    IDOT claims this project will benefit truck freight. Why not encourage them to drive around the city instead of through it?

  • This is the only free route to go north to south. I-294 is tolled ;)

  • Do you think there’s enough people driving through downtown to avoid the tolls on 294? I don’t remember the toll being so high that people would rather drive through downtown to avoid it, but I can’t be sure.

  • BlueFairlane

    If you are driving a passenger car, pay cash (as drive-through tourists will), and drive 294 from 80 to Wisconsin, you pay $9.20. I-PASS users pay $4.60, but out-of-towners won’t have I-PASS. If you’re a long-haul semi making that trip during the day, you pay $24.50 with both cash or I-PASS.

    I think these numbers are enough to influence a lot of drivers, especially truckers, to go into the city wht would be better off going around it.

  • Anonymous

    This is about more than a petition. It is about how the citizens of Illinois a disenfranchised from the decision-making processes associated with I-290 planning.

    Forced by federal statute, IDOT drafted a set of “Context Sensitive Solutions” policies back in 2003 – just before the deadline for doing so. The web page they created flies under the banner of Safety, Usability, Multimodalism, Environment, and Community.

    Among many other interesting and relevant goals, aspirations, and commitments, the IDOT CSS Guidelines manual relates:

    “The movement for contextual design began in the wake of the substantial completion of the Interstate Highway System. The mandate given by the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 was to build a new national highway system which would move large volumes of traffic safely and expeditiously at the highest design standards. By any measure, that effort succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. However, that era is over.”

    Yes, everyone agrees that era is over, yet we are still building the same solutions to solve the same set of problems. Are we stuck in a time-warp?

    IDOT continues, “Consensus began to form around the concept that the surroundings of such projects should be explicitly and systematically considered on an equal basis with the traditional imperatives of traffic safety, mobility and cost. The process of systematic consideration of these non-technical factors is the true nature of context sensitivity, and it is the way IDOT must do business from now on.”

    Human and environmental needs should be explicitly and systematically considered on an equal basis with “traditional imperatives” [read out-dated and injurious approaches to serving urban transportation needs]? It appears that in the case of I-290 the consultants and staff overseeing the study missed the memo.

    The bottom line is that there has been decades of legislative effort to encourage IDOT to conduct their business in non-traditional ways, executing their responsibilities and wielding their powers to genuinely improve the lives and wealth of Illinois residents and businesses. Even their name has changed over time in an effort to connect their roles and responsibilities to the broader transportation network and how it is not an end in and of itself, but rather a means by which people can survive and thrive.

    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. That needs to change.

  • Anonymous

    IDOT has evaluated pricing – using a severely flawed methodology that violates basic principles of statistics.

    Their conclusion is that it will not work – garbage in, garbage out. Compound that problem with a consultant team that does not understand the least bit about statistics and the potential for an observed difference in performance not being statistically different from ZERO (or even a decline in performance) and that’s the general formula for an urban highway expansion project in a heavily utilized multi-modal corridor that could otherwise benefit greatly from the firsst great transportation investment of the 21st century rather than suffer from the last great project of yesteryear.

    The Circle? It isn’t about trucks. It is about a Lexus Lane and bad math to justify it.

  • Anonymous

    Also, the CEQ regulations define mitigation as:

    1. Avoiding the impact altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action.

    2. Minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation.

    3. Rectifying the impact by repairing, rehabilitating, or restoring the affected environment.

    4. Reducing or eliminating the impact over time by preservation and maintenance operations during the life of the action.

    5. Compensating for the impact by replacing or providing substitute resources or environments.

    Importantly, by federal law these efforts are to be taken in sequence. Why does IDOT start at step five?

  • Anonymous

    Check out the conversation going on in Oak Park:

    The folks arguing for highway expansion, and the rationale they use in justifying it, are the reason IDOT wants to reconstruct the Circle to allow cars to go faster, farther. “Everyone knows I-290 needs another lane.” Really? Ask the residents down at the Circle.

  • That Guy

    The Greektown business community and UIC have also come out against the flyover, for all the obvious reasons. So, go ahead IDOT… fix the bridges (overpasses) that are 60 years old… fix the expressway road surface you claim needs repair… hire lots of people for good jobs… but skip the flyover no one wants or needs. It serves no purpose!

  • Anonymous

    Adam: You might find this interesting:

    The report concludes, “It therefore appears feasible to restore and maintain free-flow on the highways in the Metropolitan Washington Area, without adding capacity [emphasis added], by applying congestion pricing to the major facilities and at the same time increasing transit, carpool, and vanpool programs.”

    That is pretty much what research generally finds when investigating the relationship between pricing, transit, and highways; however, IDOT’s math indicates it is a bad idea. It is clear in looking at IDOT’s math, though, that they’ve made mistakes – mistakes that skew the decision in favor of added capacity and, therefore, the need to “fix” the Circle.

    Yeah, the “fix” is in and it is your money funding it.

  • Adam Herstein

    Why not just add congestion pricing to the Circle, then?

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, why not? Why not put pricing on I-290 and invest in viable transit alternatives?

    That’s a question for IDOT. They like pricing, but would like to have their cake and eat it to. They want pricing *and* more road capacity, and they don’t want to share revenue with transit. Their nod to transit is to consider an express bus heading west on I-290 from Forest Park to DuPage County destinations. They should take note that PACE already ran express bus on I-290 and got rid of it in recent years due to lack of ridership.

    Commuters don’t want an express bus – they want affordable, reliable, and efficient alternatives to driving.

    IDOT claims that the combination of pricing and transit does not work. Weird that it works everywhere else, though. I guess there’s something in the air along I-290 that makes it very different. Maybe it’s the auto exhaust clouding proper analysis and decision-making.

    In the meantime, the Circle is going to get expanded and their will be cars outside of resident windows – it’s the only way, or so IDOT represents.

  • Anonymous

    …and another reason express bus is a bad idea on I-290: IDOT initial screening identified capacity deficiencies that can only be addressed by rail.


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