Citizens for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) Issue Brief

Eisenhower Transportation Corridor



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The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) must allow residents to vote on whether they want noise walls.  IDOT’s focus is expressway traffic noise.  However, noise comes from many sources, such as ambient (background) noise, CTA and CSX trains, helicopters, and outdoor activities.  Ambient noise is lower at night when industries are closed and there are fewer outdoor activities and less traffic.  This Issue Brief summarizes some factors to consider in deciding whether to vote Yes or No.  Weight their importance based on your situation and values.  The vote determines if people want noise walls.  IDOT has prepared illustrative noise wall drawings, but the final design is not yet decided. 

EFFECTIVENESS – Bridges create breaks that allow noise through.  Noise walls need to be high enough to break the line of sight between the source (expressway) and the receptors (people’s ears).  Trucks with a high tailpipe outlet (8 to 12 feet high), motorcycles, emergency vehicles, and trains affect the noise level.  The ramps at Austin and Harlem have traffic lights, so traffic stops every time the light turns red.  Homes are close to the expressway.  Graffiti can be a problem. 

NOISE WALL DESIGN – Noise walls look better with landscaping.  If Oak Park wants design enhancements and landscaping, the Village may have to pay for them.  Drivers’ perceptions on the expressway side are different from what people perceive on the community side because the travel speeds are different, so the design of noise walls should be different on each side.  Transparent noise walls are not as effective at reducing noise; they block the wind and do not provide the same clear view as no wall. 

SOCIAL CONNECTIONS – Both middle schools and the high school are north of the expressway.  The vistas from your home are different with walls.  We have the opportunity to create stronger connections across the Corridor. 

PROPERTY IMPACTS – Noise walls can block the sun during some hours and have an impact on grass, gardens, porches, and patios.  Property owners can create a screen using landscaping and fences.  Plantings give a sense of privacy and serenity when they rustle in the wind.  The wood fence on Harrison from west of Grove to Wenonah is not an approved noise wall, but it does reduce noise slightly and hides the expressway visually. 

IDOT prepared the image shown below.  It shows Harrison Street looking west toward Maple Avenue.  IDOT has added right-hand side ramps and a noise wall on top of the retaining wall.  The truck is on the westbound Harlem ramp.  The truck’s tailpipe is above the height of the noise wall.  When the traffic light on Harlem turns red, traffic will stop on the ramp with engines running. 



Rick Kuner – November 2015