Good signs (literally) for Oak Lawn
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org February 26, 2014 1:15AM
Travelers going to Midway Airport who come from the south on Interstate 294 now will be directed to exit right onto Cicero Avenue and take the eight-mile direct route instead of going 22 miles, burning gas and paying an extra toll via a different route. | Supplied photo
OK, so it’s not the Northwest Passage or an easier way to reach India.
But motorists who didn’t already know about a “shortcut” of sorts can save mileage on their vehicles and money at a toll booth — and might possibly spend a few bucks in Oak Lawn and other nearby communities instead — thanks to a new signage program.
Signs touting an alternate route to Midway Airport — using northbound Cicero Avenue from Interstate 294 — finally have been installed. One is along northbound 294, the others are along Cicero en route to Midway.
Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury could not be any happier.
Speaking at her first “State of the Village” address on Feb. 11 at a meeting of the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce at the Oak Lawn Hilton, Bury showed photos of the signs.
“The shortest distance between two points (is a straight line). If you were coming from 294 to the south and wanted to go to Midway, the signs would direct you to go to (Interstate) 55 and take that to Cicero and back down to Midway,” Bury said.
“Why they directed you and the 20 million who go through Midway every year and to avoid Oak Lawn and our neighbors, I don’t know. But we finally have our signs. Just turn right (heading north on Cicero) and go eight miles instead of 22 miles,” Bury said.
Jim Garrett, president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau, played a large role in getting the signs installed, Bury said, as he wrote letter after letter and made countless calls to local legislators and officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois Toll Highway Authority over several years.
“We’re delighted. It took a lot of work and help from our state legislators,” Garrett said.
While he’s glad there’s a sign just before Cicero Avenue along the northbound lanes of 294, another is needed “further up the road to give drivers a heads-up that they should exit north on Cicero,” he said.
The shorter route has several benefits, Garrett said on Feb. 19.
“You save time, almost half, and you save miles. You save gas and you save on emissions. You also create economic opportunities for all the businesses on Cicero Avenue. People may stop to get gas, get a hamburger, get a Coke, whatever. They may decide to stay at the (Oak Lawn) Hilton rather than at a more expensive hotel further down,” Garrett said.
He thanked IDOT, the tollway, the city of Chicago, Midway Airport and legislators for “all being very cooperative” on the project.
Bury and Oak Lawn village manager Larry Deetjen “also took lead roles on this issue,” Garrett said. It was Deetjen who first approached Garrett about helping get the signs installed, Garrett said.
“Think of how much people will save on gas and on tolls. It’s a no-brainer, really,” Garrett said, noting that by using Cicero, drivers avoid a $1.50 toll they would pay taking 294 to I-55.