Kadner: Orland Park’s ‘good’ traffic problem
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org December 5, 2013 10:16PM
A Mariano's grocery store and hundreds of housing units are proposed for land on the north side of Orland Park Crossing shopping center, northeast of LaGrange Road and 143rd Street. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 7, 2014 6:27AM
Traffic in Orland Park is awful. Just ask the thousands of shoppers who travel to the stores around Christmas.
Still they come. And that’s a good thing for Orland Park and its residents because the village has lots of money to spend on stuff that makes life better for residents, and businesses keep lining up to build new stores.
Mariano’s is one of those, with plans to build a supermarket near 141st Street, just east of LaGrange Road.
Some nearby homeowners oppose the plan because it would create at least one, possibly two, new access roads into their subdivisions. They know that motorists, if given an option, will try to avoid LaGrange Road.
The Mariano’s plan also includes a 231-unit apartment complex to be developed separately.
Spokesmen for local homeowners organizations emphasize that they are not opposed to the Mariano’s. They want a grocery store. They just don’t want the store driving customer traffic through residential streets with 20 mph speed limits.
Part of my problem with judging such debates is that I know how desperate many Southland towns are for any economic development.
Heck, elected officials in Robbins were ready to give away 25 percent of the property in their village to a company that wanted to dig a limestone quarry and underground mine.
Dixmoor is so short of money that it just eliminated its police department. Blue Island has two bridges that have been out of commission for years because it simply doesn’t have the funds to repair them.
Orland Park is at the other end of the spectrum, with a booming commercial base.
So, while I certainly understand the problems caused by traffic congestion, I find it easier to sympathize with the people living in towns that can’t afford to pay police and firefighters a decent wage.
But folks like Tom Mulvey, of the Heritage Estates Homeowners Association, have a point when they say Orland Park doesn’t have enough sub-arterial streets.
Traffic on LaGrange Road, which flows past Orland Square Mall, can be dreadful. That’s one reason the village and state are widening the road to three lanes in each direction.
There are plans in the future to widen 143rd and 159th streets west of LaGrange Road into Will County. Orland Park officials contend that widening those major streets will eventually alleviate many of the village’s traffic problems.
Mulvey seems skeptical. So am I. Street improvements have a way of attracting more traffic.
But Mulvey’s real concern is that creating a new access road into his community from the proposed Mariano’s supermarket to 140th Street will encourage people to use winding residential streets as a shortcut north to 135th Street.
He and other residents claim that has been happening for years as motorists on 135th Street try to avoid LaGrange Road southbound and take a shortcut that leads to John Humphrey Drive at 143rd Street.
John Humphrey Drive is the back door into Orland Square. Many drivers may not know the name, but they use the road.
The Orland Park Crossing mall, 143rd Street and LaGrange Road, is near the proposed Mariano’s store, but now there is no access via a residential street to that commercial area.
That’s because nearby homeowners didn’t want it.
Eventually, a housing development went up, Orland Park Crossing Condominiums, and those folks don’t have direct access to either LaGrange Road or the shopping center from which the condos get their name. Homeowners claim that, too, was part of an unwritten agreement with village officials when the condo complex was built.
And now the condo owners are joining with the Heritage Estates homeowners to oppose residential-street access to Mariano’s customers or those new apartment buildings.
If you look at a map of the area, it really doesn’t make any sense to do what the homeowners and condo owners want.
From a business and urban planning standpoint, you should want to make it easy for traffic to get to Mariano’s from the mall and create an option to LaGrange Road.
A Mariano’s spokesman has stressed that the business wants people living nearby to be able to walk to the store, and that makes sense.
As for the future apartment dwellers, they would be isolated from the rest of the residential community without an access road. More importantly, they would have problems getting to their garages, which would be reached from a system of alleyways.
As Mulvey has said, Orland Park’s traffic problems are caused by a lack of streets and creating more routes to get from one place to another makes sense. It really makes no sense to isolate a residential area.
Orland Park Crossing, which has failed to generate as much revenue as its shops would like, also could benefit by making access easier for residents and people coming from Orland Square Mall
But Mulvey is right when he says residential streets aren’t designed for that sort of traffic, and I can’t accept the arguments of village officials that shoppers wouldn’t cut through to avoid LaGrange Road.
The solution, as I see it, is to create an access road for shoppers and apartment tenants that makes it easy for them to get to John Humphrey Drive, east of the proposed grocery store, to travel south, but discourages traffic going north of 141st Street through residential areas.
I’m not sure how you do that. Speed bumps in the residential areas come to mind along with strict enforcement of the 20 mph limit to discourage drive-through traffic.
Orland Park has a good problem. Its professional staff ought to be able to find a good, creative solution. That’s the advantage of having money.