Expansion plans for Meacham Road in Rolling Meadows are still in their infancy, but city officials are promising to shut down the entire project if the state insists on widening the road between Emerson Drive and Algonquin Road to five lanes, instead of three.
Widening the two-lane portion of Meacham Road has been discussed for years, but now, with future traffic projections well exceeding the road's capacity, the Illinois Department of Transportation and city officials are looking at their options more seriously.
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A traffic study by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning projects that by 2040 more than 20,000 cars will travel daily on that stretch of Meacham Road. In 2011, the average daily traffic volume was about 15,000 cars.
The expected increase in traffic, along with delays and accidents cause by the lack of left-turn lanes, are just some of the reasons for the upgrade, said Rolling Meadows Public Works Director Fred Vogt.
A study on accidents has not yet been completed, Vogt said, but based on the traffic study and available accident statistics, IDOT would normally recommend a five-lane road, with two lanes in each direction and an alternating left turn lane in the middle.
That's two more lanes than residents want.
Residents who live along and near the road have said they don't support a five-lane option, stating it would be like putting a highway through their neighborhood.
"It's bad enough now with traffic that comes through at excessive speeds," said resident Scott Hoadley. "If you expand that road you're going to invite drag racing."
IDOT has not made a recommendation, and city staffers met with IDOT this week for a progress report. Public information meetings for residents will be held in April, Vogt said.
IDOT, which will fund part of the project, has final say over how wide the expansion will be. However, Rolling Meadows has local jurisdiction over the road and can decide to leave it as is if they don't agree with IDOT's recommendation.
In an open letter, Mayor Tom Rooney wrote that if IDOT wants to move forward with a five-lane plan he "will personally propose stopping any and all efforts to do anything with Meacham Road other than keep it in reasonably good condition."
IDOT officials did not return phone calls for comment.
To the north of Emerson Drive, Meacham Road has four lanes and south of Algonquin Road it has six lanes.
Vogt said city staff won't take an official position until more research is done, but are leaning toward the smaller option.
"We hope people are in favor of the three-lane road," Vogt said. "It's our best chance to get something that would appease and accommodate a majority of residents and the public." "What's important right now is having a good dialogue with IDOT and being open to all possibilities," he added. "Nothing has been decided other than to try to do what's best for everyone involved."