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Our View: Higher median needed on wider 159th

Updated: June 11, 2013 6:34AM



Many merchants along 159th Street in Homer Glen accept that the major thoroughfare needs to be widened to four lanes, a project set to start next year.

But they do not accept the Illinois Department of Transportation’s plan to install a raised concrete median on the wider road and are fighting to persuade IDOT officials to drop it.

They fear the higher median will hurt their businesses by deterring customers, who won’t be able to make left turns and must make a U-turn at an intersection to reach a business on the other side.

We sympathize with their concerns.

These businesses are their livelihood. But sometimes the legitimate protests of the few are outweighed by the larger interest of the many.

Who can argue that 159th Street needs widening? If you drive during rush hour on the seven-mile stretch between Interstate 355 and Ravinia Avenue in Orland Park, you know how ugly it can be. IDOT says that segment was designed for about 14,000 vehicles per day, now averages about 23,000, and population growth will drive that to roughly 36,000 within 25 years.

The wider road also will have a higher speed limit, up to 50 or 55 mph, and the high median is designed to prevent vehicles from crossing into the opposite lanes, where more serious accidents would occur, according to IDOT.

Many major roads now have such medians for safety (stats show they reduce accidents by nearly 20 percent nationally) — forcing motorists to make U-turns rather than left turns to reach a destination. Similar medians exist in the nearly done U.S. 30 widening project and are planned for the LaGrange Road widening from 131st to 179th streets.

But IDOT’s recent history suggests that if local businesses make a persuasive case, compromise will follow — such as more breaks in the median to allow U-turns where businesses are bunched. We expect the 159th Street merchants’ persistence, along with common sense, to lead to a compromise.

What’s good for drivers can be good for business, too.



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