Oak Brook residents wonder how Tri-State widening will affect them

  • Joe and Gail Scrappo's yard is a short distance from I-294, which the tollway agency intends to widen. Joe wonders, "How much will the toll road take from the backyard?"

      Joe and Gail Scrappo's yard is a short distance from I-294, which the tollway agency intends to widen. Joe wonders, "How much will the toll road take from the backyard?" Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted5/15/2017 5:30 AM

Back in the 1970s, when cars broke down on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) in Oak Brook, stranded drivers turned to Gail and Joe Scrappo.

"If they ran out of gas, they'd jump over the fence and say, 'Can we borrow some gas or do you mind calling (for help)? Our car's stopped,'" Joe Scrappo recalled. "Gail would invite them into the house."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That direct contact with drivers ended when the Illinois tollway built a massive wall that towers over the Scrappo's garden, but the family still hears the roar of thousands of vehicles daily.

And as the agency moves to widen I-294, the Scrappos and hundreds of other residents in east DuPage County worry what the latest fallout will be in terms of noise, air pollution and possible loss of their land.

One thing's certain: "I don't think anyone's going to look the other way and let them run over us," Oak Brook homeowner Stanley Papuga said.

In April, tollway directors approved a $4 billion plan to expand I-294 between Balmoral Avenue in Rosemont and 95th Street in Oak Lawn. The proposal includes an extra lane in each direction, a "Flex Lane" using the inside shoulder for express buses and improvements to key interchanges at I-88 and I-290.

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The project is intended to solve traffic jams on the Central Tri-State, a nightmare at rush hour, and is supported by a number of suburbs on the corridor, such as Rosemont.

But pushback from Oak Brook, Hinsdale and Western Springs -- who see baseball fields and backyards evaporating -- has got the tollway's attention.

In the Scrappos' home on Sheffield Lane, migrating orioles tune up as peonies, poppies, early clematis and a bleeding heart from Gail's childhood home in Iowa bloom.

The couple has no intention of leaving their home of 46 years where they raised a family. But they're troubled by uncertainties.

"How much will the toll road take from the backyard?" wondered Joe Scrappo. "If there's only 5 feet it wouldn't disturb us that much. If it came out to be 20 feet then that would be a significant hit for us."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I wake up at night and (think) will my back lawn be gone?" Gail said. "We're not that young any more. When we're phasing out and getting ready to sell -- who's going to want to buy the place? It's upsetting."

To the north on Croydon Lane, Papuga faces similar concerns. He's lived in his home close to ramps connecting the Tri-State and Reagan Memorial Tollway for 33 years. The noise was tolerable until the tollway raised one ramp several years ago so it's visible over the wall in his backyard.

In that case, neighbors didn't react until it was too late, but now "we're not going to miss the boat this time," Papuga said.

Conducting a noise analysis and building or retrofitting new noisewalls are part of every tollway rebuild or widening, officials explained.

A final design may take up to two years, Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said in April, promising "we're going to work with the communities and work with the citizens to design this road."

You should know

To combat a dangerous trend of snapping photos along the railway tracks, Metra's annual kids' safety poster and essay contest's theme was "Keep Your Self(ies) Safe." You can view the top entries online at metrarail.com/node/5013 and vote for a favorite through June 9.

Young artists placing first for posters included kindergartner Evelyn Kuzmik of Naperville; first-grader Aaron Ahn of Naperville; second-grader Nina Pepel of Batavia; fourth-grader Alina Qian of Buffalo Grove; fifth-grader David Aranda of Hanover Park; seventh-grader Karen Ga-Eun Lee of Buffalo Grove; and eighth-grader Yegor Baranovski of Naperville. Winners in the essay portion were third-grader Rumaysa Siddiqui of Hanover Park and sixth-grader Colin Ciaccio of Mundelein.

Gridlock alert

• Expect traffic on Irving Park Road with lane closures resulting from IDOT resurfacing work in Schaumburg, Hanover Park and Streamwood now through the fall. Work extends from Bartlett to Wise roads.

• Route 132 in Gurnee between Ferndale and Estes streets will be rough this summer with road reconstruction closing one lane in each direction until fall.

Vacation precaution

With the first long weekend of the summer almost here, AAA is warning drivers to give their cars a checkup before a big road trip. The motorists' association estimates it will dispatch help to 7 million stranded drivers this summer, including 420,000 in Illinois. Don't forget to bring an emergency kit, and have your tires and battery inspected.

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