More changes to 159th Street project
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org June 12, 2013 9:20PM
Bob Schmidt (left), of Wheel Go Camping, near 159th Street and Parker Road, is concerned that the unmountable medians planned for 159th Street will put him out of business. He discusses the design Wednesday with Homer Glen Village Trustee Mike Costa (right) and village engineer Mike Salamowicz (obscured). | Susan DeMar Lafferty~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 15, 2013 7:16PM
Before the design for the widened 159th Street corridor is finalized, Homer Glen residents, business owners and officials got one more look at drawings at a workshop session Wednesday at the village hall.
Since the last public meeting, the Illinois Department of Transportation added five breaks in the unmountable median, increasing the number of breaks to 18 along the 7.5-mile route from Ravinia Avenue in Orland Park west to Gougar Road.
Unmountable medians have been a major concern for the business owners, who fear motorists will prefer to drive by their stores rather than make a U-turn to reach them.
“We really worked hard to better accommodate access,” IDOT’s John Baczek said adding that median breaks will be between one-eighth and one-quarter of a mile apart, eliminating many left turns.
“It is a change. It is different. Folks will have to learn a new traffic pattern, but it will be safer,” Baczek said. “We put breaks where they made sense. This supports future development.”
IDOT is now finalizing the design of the new roadway and acquiring 230 properties along 159th Street, with a goal to break ground next spring.
Baczek said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the comments he heard Wednesday but said the plan may still be tweaked. IDOT officials later brainstormed with some business owners about additional ideas to provide easy access to their sites.
Medians will block direct access to Ace Hardware and the Sandbox Preschool and Day Care, both near 159th Street and Will-Cook Road, and the owners were trying to figure out how they could share access with neighboring businesses and who would pay for it.
“I’m trying not to be unreasonable,” George Muersch, of Ace Hardware, said, adding that he would be willing to grant an easement for a new shared driveway if IDOT paid for it.
Kimberly Murphy, of IDOT, who was discussing options with Muersch, said if the new driveway is a “public benefit” the state may be willing to pay for it.
The revised plan also showed a possible access road from Sandbox Preschool through adjoining lots to Twin Lakes Drive, but some of that property is in foreclosure, preschool owner Sue Moustakas said, wondering who would pay for that road.
“I’m worried about our six-week-old infants. We are praying they put a traffic light in at Twin Lakes Drive,” she said.
Bob Schmidt, of Wheel Go Camping, near 159th Street and Parker Road, didn’t mince words in telling IDOT officials, “You are my enemy. You will put me out of business.” He said the semi trucks that deliver to his business will not be able to make a U-turn.
But Baczek said truck drivers will quickly learn what routes to take with the wider road.
Homer Township Supervisor Pam Meyers said the township board is concerned about the appearance of the medians and is opposed to landscaped medians if the township has to maintain them.
While many expressed concern about public safety, Homer Township Fire Protection District Chief Bob Tutko said the biggest impact on his department will be during the two-year construction period. Once 159th Street is widened to four lanes, it will be easier for vehicles to move out of the way of emergency vehicles, he said.
Homer Glen Mayor Jim Daley said IDOT has made “tremendous accommodations,” more for Homer Glen than anywhere else.
“I’m not in favor of the medians, but that is IDOT’s standard,” he said.
State Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont), who stopped by during the two-hour session, said there remain concerns, “but a lot of effort has been made to address them. It is a major, major improvement. We will never get 100 percent satisfaction. There will be some inconveniences and people will have to change their patterns.”