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Circle Interchange Plan Has Residents up in Arms over Halsted Ramp, Noise

By Chloe Riley | April 4, 2013 11:04am

NEAR WEST SIDE — Residents were fuming at an Illinois Department of Transportation community meeting intended to resolve issues surrounding a $420 million plan to upgrade the Circle Interchange just west of the Loop.

The plan is intended to fix the more than half-century-old interchange where Congress Parkway intersects with the Kennedy, Eisenhower and Dan Ryan expressways.

Officials said the interchange is "the slowest and most congested highway freight bottleneck in the nation" with more than 400,000 vehicles using it every day and more than 1,100 crashes every year.

[See the proposed plan here.]

The plan calls for increasing the number of lanes going through interchange, moving northbound I-90/94 Kennedy Expressway to the left side, increasing the number of lanes making up entrance ramps from I-290 Eisenhower Expressway to the Kennedy and widening the entrance ramp from the I-90/94 Dan Ryan to the Eisenhower, among other upgrades.
Many of the angriest of the 70 people in attendance own condos in the Green Street Lofts, a Greektown building that would be caught in the middle of the proposed construction.

“We’re not happy about the ramp,” said Josh Campbell, a 35-year-old designer who’s owned a condo at Green Street since 2002.  “Makes me wonder how much due diligence they actually did,” he said of IDOT’s proposal.

Several residents from the Greektown Green Street Lofts wore buttons that said “15-4, A Better Option” in support of the Alternative 15.4 proposal in which traffic would have been diverted away from the condo building and under Halsted Street.

In IDOT’s current Alternative 7.1C proposal, the ramp extends over Halsted Street.

Originally, a ramp taking traffic from the northbound Ryan onto the westbound Eisenhower would have passed a mere seven feet in front of the south face of the Green Street Lofts condominiums. The building is about 60 feet from the interchange now.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Schilke assured condo residents that the distance was now closer to 20 feet.

“They told us two weeks ago that it would be 40 feet away from our building,” said Jennifer Powers, a 10-year resident at Green Street. “Basically, they’re forcing us to say that we can’t support any project they propose.” 

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who was present at the meeting, echoed many residents concerns that their property values would drop with the project’s commencement.

“There’s 127,000 active foreclosures in the City of Chicago right now and I don’t want you to be any part of that,” Fioretti told Green Street Loft residents.

The alderman also said he would be sending a letter to Gov. Pat Quinn requesting more community hearings.

“I gotta tell you, I’m disappointed. This is the worst public outreach I’ve ever seen by IDOT,” he said.

At one point during the meeting, after telling residents that the noise decibels would “generally” increase by between one to four decibels, Schilke caused an uproar in the crowd.

“Your own representative told us five decibels, not one or two,” Bill Sharp, a 26-year resident at the Green Street Lofts, shouted out.

Schilke maintained that IDOT follows federal regulations when measuring noise levels, which are measured at the outside of affected buildings.

“We are aware of your building,” Schilke said. “Again, there’s 31 residential buildings in this area.”