IDOT Asks Road Builders to Pack Room at Circle Interchange Hearing

southbound Halsted photorealistic with flyover
A rendering by IDOT showing the flyover above Halsted Street. Please put on your rendering reality distortion removal glasses now.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting a meeting tonight to present adjustments to the $475 million Circle Interchange project. The project, justified as way to increase automobile speeds and reduce congestion-related delays and crashes, will still have an ugly flyover over Halsted Street and at eye level of many residents in a nearby apartment building.

IDOT is trying hard to frame this road project – which, ultimately, will lead more people to drive – as an enhancement for the community. But all of the local improvements — a new bike lane on Harrison for one block, a widened bike lane on Halsted for one block, and noise walls — can be done without expanding the Circle Interchange. Perhaps this strategy isn’t winning over local residents. A reader contacted us yesterday to report that IDOT has asked one of Chicago’s largest architecture and engineering firms to come and support the project.

Our source asked to remain anonymous and to refrain from identifying the employer. We were able to confirm that it is a very large engineering firm that does a lot of business for state DOTs. The source tells us that the message went out to every employee at the firm’s Chicago offices: “The fact that IDOT is asking for industry players to stack the room is probably not a new tactic but it is rather disconcerting for them to so blatantly tilt the public involvement process in favor of their preferred solution.”

Here is the message from the firm to its employees:

REMINDER:

The Circle Interchange Public Hearing is tomorrow night, Thursday, June 27, starting at 5:00 p.m. The Hearing is at the Crowne Plaza hotel.

IDOT has asked for support from the industry at this Hearing for this high-profile interchange improvement project. Please represent us by attending the meeting tomorrow after work.

It is an open house event, so you don’t need to stay the whole time – but at least drop by to sign in and fill out a comment form to show your support for IDOT!

The changes to the project that IDOT has made include:

  • Increasing the distance from the 400 S Green residences from 20 feet to 26 feet. The Chicago Tribune reported: “The new tweaks were presented late last week to Green Street Lofts residents, who in April rejected the first modification as ‘ridiculous” and the original plan as ‘insane.’ They reluctantly agreed to the latest proposal. ‘We are still opposed to the whole flyover (ramp) concept. Nobody wants it, and it doesn’t seem to add a whole lot to IDOT’s grand master plan of alleviating congestion,” said David Lewis, condo board president of the Green Street Lofts.”
  • Adding noise abatement walls and landscaping between 400 S Green and the flyover ramp. We’ll see what kind of view this creates when IDOT presents plans at the meeting.
  • Six more noise abatement walls, including at the St. Patrick’s Church playground
  • Vibration monitors in up to 29 building basements
  • Widening of the pedestrian corridor on Peoria Street

The meeting is tonight, Thursday, June 27, from 5-8 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza hotel at 733 W Madison Street. It’s an open house format so you can attend at any time. Comments about the environmental assessment (EA) are being accepted through July 12, 2013. You can leave a comment (to go on public record) at the event, at the contact form on the project’s website, or email project manager Steve Schilke.

Likely to be replaced by a flyover
A view from the second floor of 400 S Green Street, soon to be filled with thousands of trucks each day.

A group of citizens opposed to the flyover over Halsted (known as Alternative 7.1C) will gather at Halsted & Van Buren at 5:30 PM and march to the meeting to protest the degrading of the pedestrian environment and damage to a residential building. Alternative 15.4, which IDOT identified as a second place scenario but without explaining why it wouldn’t choose it, would have the same congestion reduction impacts but put the ramp under Halsted Street.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

IDOT Presents Final Plans for Circle Interchange

|
The Illinois Department of Transportation showed final plans for the Circle Interchange expansion last Thursday at the last public meeting about the project. You now have a week and a half to tell IDOT your thoughts on the record before the public comment period ends July 12 (see how below). Since the last public meeting, IDOT has […]

The Case of IDOT’s Mysterious Extra Highway Lane

|
In a move that has baffled and frustrated residents of 400 S Green Street, the Illinois Department of Transportation has apparently ruled out a version of the Circle Interchange expansion project that would avoid building a new, elevated highway ramp above Halsted Street. At an April 3 hearing on the project, IDOT told residents the […]

An Update on CDOT’s Bikeway Construction

|
We’re currently in the midst of a bike lane building boom. Earlier this year the Chicago Department of Transportation completed groundbreaking protected lanes on Milwaukee from Kinzie to Elston, which involved removing about 50 percent of the parking spaces. Buffered lanes were striped on Wells from Chicago to North. Recently CDOT completed buffered lanes on […]