At the beginning of the I-290 planning process, we conducted a detailed review of crashes along the I-290 corridor. The two highest concentrations of crashes in the westbound direction occur in the sections of I-290 near Austin Boulevard and Harlem Avenue. The section of westbound I-290, from Laramie Avenue to Austin Boulevard, had the highest crash rate (537 crashes per mile) within the project limits, the next closest rate was on eastbound I-290 from Ashland Avenue to Racine Avenue, at 390 crashes per mile. 74% of the crashes that had an identified lane position in the police reports were in the inner two lanes at Austin, and 47% of the crashes that had an identified lane position in the police reports were in the inside lane at Harlem. This crash experience can be attributed to the inside lanes on an expressway typically serving higher speed, longer distance travel; the inside ramps introduce merging and speed changes. A national study sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in cooperation with the FHWA documents that left side entrances or exit ramps have up to 180% more crashes than right side entrance or exit ramps.
The alternatives that address the transportation needs provide improved opportunities for low income communities such as improved transit access to jobs and easier connections between modes. In addition, all of the alternatives under consideration include expanded transit service. In order to encourage stakeholder involvement, all printed materials are posted and personally distributed at key establishments in the study area communities. For the purposes of this study, key establishments include libraries, community centers, laundromats, places of worship, recreation facilities, schools, community parks, local drug stores, and transit stations.
Three rounds of evaluation are being conducted prior to preparing the Draft EIS. In Round 1 single-mode alternatives were evaluated as stand-alone improvements to assess their individual performance benefits with respect to the identified Purpose and Need. Based on the Round 1 findings, alternatives that combined several modes of travel were identified and evaluated in Round 2. In Round 3, a set of finalist alternatives, that best address the project purpose and need, will be further refined and evaluated for purpose and need performance, environmental considerations, and cost. Alternatives remaining after the completion of Round 3 will be evaluated in more detail in the Draft EIS.
For Round 1, the expressway alternatives had the overall best travel and safety performance improvement, because they serve the largest travel market, divert longer distance traffic off of the arterials, and in the case of the managed lane options (i.e., special toll or car pool lanes), were the alternatives that carried the most people through the study area in an east-west direction. Another major finding was that there is not a "transit only solution". I-290 is a major regional interstate that serves a large portion of the region and has deficiencies that cannot realistically be addressed by stand-alone transit improvements. However, transit provides important access to communities, reduces auto trips and provides access to employment. One of the I-290 study goals is to improve mobility in the region and in the study area, and a set of combination (highway/transit) alternatives are being developed and refined to meet that goal.
Based on the Round 1 results and stakeholder input, 12 combination alternatives were developed and evaluated in Round # 2, including combinations of expressway improvements (including managed lanes), transit service expansion, and interchange improvements. The best performing options generally included combinations of managed lanes, extending the CTA Blue Line, and express bus service. A total of four alternatives are being considered for further evaluation in Round 3. The results of this evaluation are documented in the Alternatives Identification and Evaluation Report.
Yes, we studied "non widening" options, both in evaluation round #1 and #2, which would rely upon an extended Blue Line for any additional capacity. Our updated evaluation of round #2 alternatives included two new "non widening" alternatives that were suggested by stakeholders. These alternatives include features that would further restrict flow on I-290 (i.e. high toll rates on all lanes, converting the existing inside lanes to managed lanes) thereby increasing traffic on local arterials, putting an added strain on local communities. The major effect of these strategies was a diversion of traffic from I-290 to an already congested local arterial system. As such, these alternatives did not perform well enough to be carried further.
In 2009, the original study limits for this project were defined from west of Mannheim Road to east of Cicero Avenue. However, the I-290 study has identified and evaluated a range of potential alternatives with many extending well east of Cicero Avenue. In order to fully evaluate the range of alternatives that may progress into the DEIS, IDOT formally extended the I-290 EIS study limits to Racine Avenue. In addition, Racine Avenue is the western limit of IDOT's current Circle Interchange Improvement study and the common limit eliminates the study area gap that previously existed.