Kadner: A roundabout way to downtown Tinley Park
By Phil Kadner email@example.com September 12, 2013 9:38PM
Tinley Park is planning a traffic roundabout at 183rd and Oak Park Ave. A roundabout is sort of a traffic circle — surrounding a center island that separates each leg of an intersection, according to the village. | File photo
Updated: October 15, 2013 7:06AM
No stop signs. No traffic lights. What’s not to like about a roundabout?
Tinley Park is planning one for 183rd Street and Oak Park Avenue. A roundabout is sort of a traffic circle — surrounding a center island that separates each leg of an intersection, according to the village.
Each leg contains a raised median (called a “splitter island”) that’s a safe haven for pedestrians trying to cross the street that also helps separate turn lanes from traffic entering the circle.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.86 million, with $2.2 million coming from a federal program to reduce traffic congestion and auto emissions. Tinley Park would put up the remaining money, village officials said.
Village planners hope construction will begin in 2015 and end within three months, with the intersection being shut down during that time.
A public meeting to discuss the roundabout is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Central Middle School, 18140 Oak Park Ave.
“It’s certainly unique to the area,” Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said, adding that he knows of only one other roundabout in the Southland — in South Holland, near 163rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
“But they’re building a lot of them in Michigan and outside of Milwaukee, and once people get used to it I think they’re really going to like the concept,” Zabrocki said. “We see this as being a gateway to Tinley Park’s downtown. It was originally in our (downtown) legacy plan (approved in 2009), so it is not something that just came up.”
Amy Connolly, Tinley Park’s planning director, said money for roundabout just happened to be available through the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
“We were very fortunate that we got the funding so quickly after submitting our proposal,” Connolly said.
“There are only about 40 or 50 roundabouts in all of Illinois, but the Federal Highway Administration is very excited about the concept because studies show roundabouts reduce accidents and fuel emissions because cars aren’t forced to idle waiting for a traffic signal to change.”
She said the roundabout’s structure will be designed for traffic to move at just 15 mph, “the speed at which motorists will feel comfortable driving through it.”
Connolly said Tinley Park will need to purchase a “little more land” around the intersection, but she saw that as no problem because two of the four corners at the intersection are vacant and a third contains a small strip mall that has some vacant land nearby.
Zabrocki said the strip mall (on the northwest corner) has attracted interest from a new developer who plans a mixed-use project on the site.
“It will be condominiums with commercial space below them,” the mayor said.
“It will be done in three phases, with Phase I a cleanup of the mall, which is already happening; Phase II, construction of some buildings with condos and commercial space on nearby vacant land; and Phase III will be razing the strip mall and building a matching group of condos with commercial space below.
“It will be the beginning of a very nice, new gateway on the south end of our downtown.”
The section of 183rd Street that would undergo construction also is used by motorists on their way to concerts at First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, 191st Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
“We will have police officers directing traffic through the roundabout on days when there are concerts, Zabrocki said. “We already have police officers doing that anyway in the area, so there will be no additional cost.”
Connolly said several developers who have heard about the roundabout have indicated increased interest in downtown Tinley Park because they consider the traffic plan an enhancement.
My initial reaction upon looking at a diagram of the roundabout is that it looked potentially dangerous for pedestrians. Without traffic signals or stop signs, how will they know when it’s safe to cross the street?
“Illinois law states that traffic must stop whenever a pedestrian is in an intersection,” Connolly said. “And the splitter islands are safety zones for pedestrians to wait as they are crossing the street.
“All the studies show this is actually a much safer design for pedestrians and motorists than traditional intersections.
Zabrocki and Connolly emphasized that the roundabout is not a traffic circle, which is popular in many European cities and some on the East Coast.
“This is not a four- or five-lane highway where cars can pass each other at high rates of speed,” Connolly said.
183rd Street is one lane each way at Oak Park Avenue. A second lane of traffic will be created just east and west of Oak Park Avenue heading eastbound “because studies show there’s more traffic headed in that direction,” Connolly said.
In addition, the roundabout will have right-turn lanes set apart by the splitter islands. Signs and markings on the street will direct motorists how to get in those lanes, Connolly said.
“The purpose of this meeting (Tuesday) is to get suggestions from the public about the design,” she said, noting that the village has accepted the federal grant. “We want their suggestions before the design work gets underway.”
More information is available on Tinley Park’s website. The village board this month approved $280,000 for a Phase I study, but more votes on expenditures will have to be made as the project progresses.