The Illinois Department of Transportation held an open house last Thursday at the Worth Village Hall to inform residents about proposed plans for roadway improvements, which will also include Palos Hills.
The plans include widening and resurfacing, the addition of a center turn lane as well as pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, and intersection and drainage improvements.
On hand to explain the proposed project were representatives of IDOT and Hampton, Lenzini and Renwick, Inc., the engineering firm working with IDOT.
The presentation, defined as “public outreach,” is part of Phase I of a preliminary engineering and environmental study initiated by IDOT. It is the first outreach to the public, including businesses, residents and other stakeholders.
According to Kimberly K. Murphy, project manager with IDOT, the Improvement Project would complete improvements that had been made to 111th Street, east of Harlem Avenue, in the 1980s.
“Plans for these proposed improvements, west of Harlem, began being discussed approximately four or five years ago,” she said.
Murphy added that the proposal does not call for any demolishing of buildings. She explained that for the most part the right-of ways along 111th will be used for the improvements such as widening and the addition of a center turn lane from 76th Avenue to Octavia Avenue, and reconstruction of the pavement from Oketo Avenue to Octavia Avenue.
Other proposed work includes the addition of right turn lanes on the west, south and north legs at the intersection of 111th Street and Southwest Highway. Also, traffic signals and pedestrian signals will be replaced.
At Oketo Avenue and 111th Street, permanent traffic and pedestrian signals will be installed and left turn lanes added on the west and east legs.
Traffic and pedestrian signals will be replaced at 111th and Harlem, and the southbound left turn lane will be extended.
Murphy said that IDOT has been working with the Village of Worth to minimize any major negative impact of the proposed improvements. Mid-way through the open house, she commented that there seemed to be an interest in the project.
“We have not heard many objections to the proposals tonight, and this will definitely be an improvement to the area,” said Murphy.
However, resident Pamela Johnson, who lives in Hillcrest Manor, was not happy with the outlined plans.
“What is going to happen to the fence on our property? According to these plans, we are losing eight feet of our right-a-way,” said Johnson. “How much space will there be between the highway and the condos at 111th and Oketo Avenue?
“The proposed addition of a sidewalk will be where our fence is currently located and you are moving the lane closer to our house,” added Johnson. “There have been a lot of accidents there. What is to stop them from crashing into our living room?”
When an IDOT representative replied that the plans called for a curb to be placed there, Johnson asked what good would that do.
“A curb will not stop a truck from crashing through the fence,” she said angrily. “How would you feel if it were your home? Would you be happy about it? None of you care, because it is not your home.”
Village Engineer Mike Spolar responded with a suggestion that perhaps guard rails could be considered at that location. He then asked her to add her comments to the “Comment Box,” which was there to collect comments from the attendees.
“This is the purpose of this meeting tonight, to get input from all of you,” said Spolar. “Don’t hold back. Give them your thoughts and ideas. They want this information.”
Murphy said funding for the project for Phase I is not yet available. The majority of IDOT projects are funded with federal money with matching funds coming from the state.
Upon completion of Phase I, IDOT will initiate the preparation of contract plans and land acquisition (part of Phase II) once funding becomes available. Phase II typically lasts 18 to 24 months. Phase III (which is the construction phase) is also anticipated to take 18 to 24 months.
However, Phase II and Phase III are not currently included in IDOT’s FY 2016-21 Proposed Highway Improvement Program.
What this means is that while IDOT will review all the comments from the residents at last Thursday’s meeting and will integrate any changes into the Phase I plan, it could be many years before the proposed improvements are actually completed.
Murphy said there will not be another public meeting on Phase I but residents interested in viewing the completed plans and designs can visit the Proposed Highway Improvement Program on IDOT’s website.