An illustration of a proposed noise wall barrier at Bataan Dr. and 18th Ave. in Maywood. Click the image above to see more visualizations of proposed noise barriers. | Illinois Department of Transportation
Friday, January 27, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Last year, the Illinois Department of Transportation surveyed community members who own properties near the Eisenhower Expressway to gauge their interest in having noise walls constructed in those areas as part of a $2.7 billion improvement project.
The project includes the proposed modernization of the Des Plaines Blue Line terminal and the proposed addition of high occupancy toll lanes designed to improve traffic flow and cut travel times, among other upgrades.
Detailed results of those surveys, released by IDOT in December as part of an over 2,200-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement, show that property owners in those affected areas in Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood voted overwhelmingly in favor of the noise walls.
“In order for a person to be eligible to vote, the noise wall must decrease the noise level at the property by at least 5 decibels, which is a readily perceptible change in noise (typically homes within 300 feet of a noise wall),” according to IDOT. “Anything less than 5 decibels is barely detectible by the human ear, therefore a noise wall would not provide any perceptible benefit.”
IDOT officials mailed out ballots to residents at least twice in some areas, seeking to generate a response rate of least 33 percent of eligible voters. If the response rate from the first mailing was not 33 percent, then a second mailing was sent. If more than half of eligible property owners voted in favor of a wall, then the noise wall construction would likely be included in the overall $2.7 billion project and paid for by IDOT.
“Non-standard features, or enhanced aesthetics, will be subject to municipal cost participation,” according to IDOT. “Individual property owners would not be asked to pay for a noise wall.”
IDOT officials said that while the state would be responsible for maintaining the walls’ structural integrity “and the appearance of the ‘expressway’ side of the wall (i.e., graffiti removal),” local municipalities would “be asked to maintain the appearance of the ‘community’ side of the wall, in addition to any non-standard or enhanced features.”
Of the nine community areas along the Eisenhower spanning Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood that were polled, only two contained a majority of participating voters who didn’t support the construction of the walls.
Voters with properties north of I-290, between 9th Ave. and 5th Ave., and those with properties north of I-290, between 5th Ave. and 1st Ave., voted down the middle — with 50 percent in favor of, and 50 percent against, the walls.
Those areas needed more than half of eligible voters to cast ballots in support of the walls in order for them to be included in the project plan.
The average barrier height and construction costs for proposed noise barriers spanning Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood. Click the image above and scroll to page 31 to see the chart closer.
At a Jan. 25 public meeting held at Proviso Math and Science Academy, where the EIS was a central point of discussion, IDOT officials said it could be several years before construction starts on the noise walls. In addition, they said, residents in the affected areas may have the opportunity to chime in on the appearance of the walls at a later date.
“This project will take two four-year periods,” said Pete Harmet, of IDOT. “The first four years will [deal with] overhead bridges and the next four years with mainline construction. We wouldn’t design it all at one time. The noise wall might be something at the latter part of the eight years. The thing is, we don’t have a schedule for when that eight years starts at this point. I would just say a number of years now, but it would just be complete speculation as regards to when.”
Some residents at Wednesday’s meeting wanted to know where the federal funding would come from now that President Donald Trump is in office.
“You stated that phase two and beyond is not funded and we do have a new administration in Washington,” said Monica Thomas, of Maywood. “What are the chances of getting this project funded?”
Harmet said that he “can’t speculate now what will happen,” but that IDOT is still developing a financial plan to look at various funding mechanisms.
“If there is a new transportation program in Washington, we’re certainly going to look and see how the Eisenhower Project would fit into that. We would start off with a financial analysis here and we’d also be observing what transpires in Washington.” VFP