A drawing of proposed lane restructuring on 183rd Street in Homewood shows bike lanes marked in solid green at intersections. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
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Future uncertain for 183rd Street traffic calming project

A drawing of proposed lane restructuring on 183rd Street in Homewood shows bike lanes marked in solid green at intersections. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
A drawing of proposed lane restructuring on 183rd Street in Homewood shows bike lanes marked in solid green at intersections. (Provided image)

Homewood officials were pleased when they received word in April 2023 that the village would receive an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) grant to help implement a traffic calming project on 183rd Street, but escalating costs since then might have put the project out of reach for now.

The plan approved by the village board involves restructuring traffic lanes on 183rd Street from Morgan Street to Dixie Highway, reducing vehicular traffic from four lanes to two and adding two bike lanes and turn lanes.

The estimated cost of the lane restructuring when the village applied for the grant in October 2022 was $241,000. ITEP grants can cover up to 80% of the project costs.

The village was notified it was awarded a $232,875 grant; however, the state required a 50% match, which meant $116,437 would come from the state, and the village would have to provide $116,437.

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Village officials sought to make the project more financially feasible by requesting a “category exclusion” or waiver of Phase I engineering. Public Works Director John Schaefer said he based the request on the fact that the project would only involve painting new lane lines.

From left, Homewood Public Works Director John Schaefer points to traffic data while talking to Diane Wagner and Cecilia Garcia before the start of the Sept. 15 open house on 183rd Street improvements. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
From left, Homewood Public Works Director John Schaefer points to traffic data while talking to Diane Wagner and Cecilia Garcia before the start of the Sept. 15, 2022, open house on 183rd Street improvements. (Chronicle file photo)

Schaefer said the village asked IDOT prior to receiving the grant whether Phase I engineering would be required but did not receive an answer. (Note: The Chronicle has sent email messages to IDOT officials seeking an explanation for the denial of the category exclusion request but we have not yet received a response.)

Illinois Department of Transportation officials denied the category exclusion request, and an initial project meeting was held in August 2023. That’s when the project costs increased again.

At the meeting, IDOT officials spelled out Phase I engineering requirements, including doing an Americans with Disabilities Act compliance study on crosswalk ramps and an intersection design study at Riegel Road to analyze impact on turn movements, according to the meeting minutes.

The village received an estimate of $142,590 for completing Phase I studies. With the village’s grant match and the Phase I studies, the total cost to the village increased to more than $260,000.

The costs could rise further, depending on the results of Phase I studies. If the studies indicate that ADA compliance work needs to be done, for example, that would increase the cost of the project even further, Schaefer said.

History

The effort to slow down traffic and increase safety on 183rd Street became more urgent for the village after a fatal accident at the intersection of Center Avenue and 183rd Street in July 2020 took the life of Dominique Wood of Merrillville, Indiana.

A roadside memorial honors Dominique Wood, who was killed in a crash near the spot on 183rd Street in 2020. (Chronicle file photo).

A nearby resident, one of the first on the scene of the crash, started an online petition seeking action on traffic safety. In just a few days, the petition was signed by more than 3,000 people.

Village officials responded within a few weeks by removing several trees at the intersection to improve the line of sight for drivers entering 183rd Street from Center.

The timing of the traffic light on Aberdeen Street one block east of the crash site increased the frequency of red lights in an effort to reduce speeding.

183rd and Center pylons 2020-10-07 005
Centerline posts prevent left turns at the intersection of 183rd Street and Center Avenue. (Chronicle file photo)

Flexible posts were installed along the center line of 183rd Street in an attempt to prevent left turns from 183rd Street onto Center and to prevent drivers on Center from crossing 183rd Street.

Posts were also installed at the intersection with Park Avenue to prevent left turns onto eastbound 183rd.

The village also began studying traffic patterns on 183rd Street as part of an effort to develop additional improvements. In February 2021, trustees approved a contract with Burns & McDonnell Engineering to study traffic patterns and suggest options for improving safety. The lane restructure was one idea included in the study report, which was approved by trustees in November 2021.

Barrels are used in May to test the effect of reducing 183rd Street from four lanes to two. The village is seeking a grant that would help with the costs of making that change permanent. (Chronicle file photo)
Barrels are used in May 2022 to test the effect of reducing 183rd Street from four lanes to two. (Chronicle file photo)

In May 2022, the village conducted a two-week test of the proposed lane restructuring using barrels to shift traffic into two lanes from Morgan Street to Riegel Road. Schaefer said the results indicated the restructuring should not cause significant traffic congestion.

At several public meetings where the lane restructuring option was discussed, residents along and near 183rd Street expressed strong support for the project. Residents said chronic speeding on the street causes them stress and makes it difficult to leave their driveways.

Support was not unanimous, however. Some residents on parallel streets, especially 187th Street and Ridge Road, said they worry traffic calming on 183rd Street will generate more traffic and more speeding on their streets.

Next steps

Village staff plans to present the situation to the Board of Trustees sometime this spring to get guidance on how to proceed.

Options could include searching for additional funding to meet the grant requirements.

The village recently amended its fund balance policy, reducing the amount of money it’s required to keep on hand, and that freed up nearly $2 million for capital projects this year. That money has already been allocated to other projects.

Because the money for capital projects was in hand, the village board opted not to issue a bond, as it typically does, but it left the option open in case additional funding became necessary.

Another option would be to abandon the grant and put the project on hold until adequate funding can be arranged. Staff is also exploring whether abandoning the grant might reduce the regulatory burden enough to make the project feasible.

The lane restructuring project is not the only safety improvement option on the village’s radar. The 2021 feasibility study also mentioned the option of installing traffic lights at Center and 183rd, and the village’s capital projects plan for 2024 includes $130,000 for an engineering study of that option.

The traffic test in May 2022 also included closing off Gottschalk Avenue where it intersects with 183rd Street from the north. That option has been on the back burner after resident feedback was mixed. There was support for making Gottschalk a dead end at 183rd from residents on that street, but opposition from residents elsewhere in the neighborhood who feared it would increase traffic on their streets.

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