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Left-side on-, off-ramps could be shifted to the right in Oak Park

National statistics show thleft-side ramps — like this one Eisenhower Expy. Aust— have 49 percent higher crash rate than right-hramps.

National statistics show that left-side ramps — like this one on the Eisenhower Expy. at Austin — have a 49 percent higher crash rate than right-hand ramps. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 13, 2012 6:12AM

The left-side entrance and exit ramps on the Eisenhower Expy. at Austin and Harlem would be moved to the right side to improve safety under plans being considered by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The proposal is part of a planning process for improvements to an 8-mile corridor of the Ike that began in fall 2009.

“The Eisenhower between Mannheim and Cicero averages about 2000 crashes a year,” Peter Harmet, IDOT’s programming chief, said Monday. “It has aging pavement and bridges. It has outdated design standards and certainly a fair amount of congestion.

“As we’ve gotten into developing various types of solutions for the Eisenhower, one component of that is what to do about the ramps,” he said.

Other proposals include extending the CTA Blue Line and adding a car-pool lane. But any work is still far off. A final plan for the corridor — which carries more than a quarter of a million cars and trucks daily and runs through seven western suburbs and Chicago — is not expected before early 2014.

And there is no funding or timeline for the design and land acquisition or construction phases to follow.

Not all of the affected suburbs are on board. “We are not entirely sold on the idea that left-hand ramps are inherently dangerous — and there’s literature to suggest that’s not actually the case,” said Rob Cole, assistant village manager of Oak Park.

“As of right now, what IDOT has presented are merely conceptual drawings that lack any sufficient level of detail for us to be able to provide any effective level of feedback,” he added.

Village officials summoned IDOT to a Monday night meeting at Oak Park Village Hall on the proposed ramp alterations. IDOT says that a study of the corridor, which also encompasses Bellwood, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, Maywood and Westchester, identified the Austin and Harlem ramps as “hot spots” for crashes, particularly in the westbound lanes. National statistics show left-hand ramps have a 49 percent higher crash rate than right-hand ramps, the agency says.

“Part of the issue there is that the inside lane is typically for longer distance and higher-speed travel, and then you introduce sort of that local movement, and it causes problems. Also, in the case of Harlem and Austin, you have times when traffic backs up onto the expressway.”

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