CHICAGO (STMW) — Adding two extra lanes to the westernmost stretch of the Kennedy Expressway doesn’t bother Demetrios Agalianos. But a wall just feet from his Northwest Side home — meant to lessen noise from the busy expressway — isn’t sounding as sweet.
“Expansion is fine, but no wall,” Agalianos said. “It will ruin the view.”
Agalianos was one of a number of impacted residents who attended a Feb. 13 public presentation of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s most recent plans for an expansion of I-90 between East River Road and Harlem Avenue. The presentation took place at the Holiday Inn Chicago O’Hare.
The plans, which have been revised since a similar meeting was held nearly one year ago, call for an additional eastbound lane between Cumberland Avenue and Harlem Avenue and adding a westbound lane between Harlem and Cumberland, with two separated “local lanes” for drivers exiting to Cumberland, I-190 and southbound I-294.
A direct ramp connecting the Jane Addams Tollway with southbound Cumberland Avenue is also proposed.
State and federal funding has not yet been approved for the project, estimated to cost $43 million.
“Depending on priority and funding availability, this project could be added to the program at any time,” said John Baczek of IDOT.
Expanding the expressway, said Baczek, will make it “safer and more efficient for the traffic that’s out there today,” though he did acknowledge that traffic could increase if drivers who currently avoid the Kennedy because of existing congestion decide to return.
The project, if funded, would tie in with a proposed I-190 flyover ramp sending eastbound traffic directly to the Cumberland exits. The flyover still awaits funding approval.
Sound insulation is planned for long stretches of the project area, largely in areas where homes are nearby. The walls will range from 9 feet to 23 feet in height, said Mike Zabel of HNTB, an infrastructure firm working with IDOT. The reduction in noise as a result of the walls is estimated at between 5 and 14 decibels, Zabel said.
“It’s pitiful, if you ask me,” said Joellen Dobos, a resident of unincorporated Norwood Park Township just south of the expressway, explaining that the expected reduction in noise pales in comparison to the aesthetic impact a sound wall will have on the neighborhood.
“I’ll feel like I’m living in a fortress,” she said. “If the wall needs to be 21 feet high just to reduce 5 decibels of noise, to me that’s not worth it.”
Neighbor Barbara Glasglo expressed concerns about whether the walls would be maintained well by IDOT, while Pat Senco said the wall could impact safety and crime as it would block off Seminole Avenue from view.
Last year, residents living on Bryn Mawr Avenue, which faces the expressway, had concerns about increased noise from expansion and expressed a desire for a sound barrier.
There are no plans for a sound wall along the north side of the Kennedy, which passes through Park Ridge.
Residents living in areas where walls are proposed will have an opportunity to vote as to whether they want them. If less than 50 percent are in favor, the walls will not be recommended, said Zabel.
If the Kennedy is expanded, the current plans do not call for any impacts to the existing CTA Blue Line tracks or the Cumberland Avenue pedestrian bridge, Baczek said.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)