Councilwoman Beth Akeson criticized the Illinois Department of Transportation in a weekend Tweet.
Her critique was directed at how IDOT is handling the construction project on Knoxville Avenue.
She chided the department for spending “$2 million on the project” and “not doing sidewalks, trees, five lanes is over engineered.”
She also appeared to blame the death of a man, who was recently fatally struck at Knoxville and Nebraska, on the “bad design.
IDOT Public Information Officer Gianna Urgo provided a response to the claims on Tuesday.
Urgo says IDOT must only consider bicycle and pedestrian accommodations on major projects according to the Complete Streets law passed by the General Assembly in 2007. The release states as follows:
“The project on Knoxville Avenue is not considered a major project. The construction currently taking place involves resurfacing to avoid frequent pothole patching and miscellaneous pavement repairs due to the poor condition of the road. The department will be embarking on a larger study this fall to develop a more comprehensive plan and approach to improve this stretch of road. This will be a significant project that will require extensive public and stakeholder input. The study will take approximately two or three years to finish. Construction at this time is estimated to cost $18 million… we simply could not allow the condition of the road to deteriorate further so the resurfacing is considered a stopgap until plans for a more extensive reconstruction are developed… IDOT released more than $35 million to communities for projects that enhance biking and pedestrian options.”
IDOT didn’t directly address the accident.
In response to IDOT’s statement, Akeson said her intent was to encourage the City and IDOT to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars.
“We are spending $2 million to keep things as they are,” Akeson said to 1470 & 100.3 WMBD. “The city relies on sales tax dollars for revenue and we know that property values are good for the city and school district and everyone should be mindful of what we need to do to create more economic value.”
Akeson also noted her Tweet was in response to a Tweet from @strongtowns. It’s the Twitter handle of Stong Towns, a group founded by well-known engineer Charles Marohn, to encourage better infrastructure in cities. Marohn was speaking in Peoria last week, an event attended by Akeson, other city leaders and local engineers.
She believes more thought should have been put into the update of Knoxville road before construction began.
“We need to serve the citizens and do it in a affordable way. In my opinion, everyone should have stopped and come back to the table,” she said.
Finally, when asked to clarify the “two people were killed because of bad design statement” Akeson noted the city is taking the recent, pedestrian-involved fatal accident on Knoxville Ave. “very seriously”- a point expressed by City Engineer Scott Reisse.
Still, she believes the width of Knoxville Ave. is dangerous.
“Those lane widths are at least 12 feet and those widths are the standard for freeways. Why would you want 12-foot travel lanes blowing through neighborhoods?… We need to make sure as time goes on, we are doing everything as safe as possible for pedestrians.”