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Transportation

Transportation

Homer Glen’s location in the northeast corner of Will County has allowed the Village to grow in importance as well as in size. Located just 30 miles southwest of Chicago, the area has expanded as more and more city dwellers seek space for their families in the suburbs. As the Homer Glen area grows in population, the infrastructure must change to accept the needs of the people. Because suburban towns such as Homer Glen have traditionally been “bedroom communities,” for commuters working in the larger cities, one of the major concerns must be transportation. As Homer Glen grows, that issue is fervently being examined and addressed.

roads

Perhaps the largest transportation change affecting Homer Glen has been the recent completion of the nearby I-355 spur that connects I-55 in the north to I-80 in the south, running along the western border of Homer Glen. This spur will help commuters travel to Chicago, of course, but also allows commuting ease north to DuPage County, where more and more businesses are relocating.

That arterial also affects Homer Glen roadways, as more traffic will be moving off the tollway and onto 159th Street. With Orland Park to the east and the tollway to the west, 159th and 143rd Streets have become major east-west arterials, with Bell Road the major north-south route. The plan calls for widening areas that are traditionally congested on such main arteries as Bell Road and 159th Street. Any such work is subject to approval by both IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) and Will County.

IDOT

According to Director of Development Services Michael Salamowicz, “In 2010 IDOT has plans to pave 159th Street, and ultimately down the road, they plan to widen it to four lanes with a divider. The biggest thing the Village would like to see is to get the widening done in the next few years, or at least sooner than currently planned, just because of the added flow from the tollway.”

But Homer Glen administrators understand that transportation needs do not stop with large highways, and to that end, have developed a plan to cover roads and byways within as well as without the Village area. Many of the township roads are “county” types—two-lane blacktop with a gravel shoulder. These will be paved and lined with curbs and gutters, adding walkways alongside where deemed necessary. The idea is to channel traffic along the correct routes—to move business traffic out of residential areas, and vice versa.

The Homer Glen Transportation Plan, adopted in December of 2007, was planned with an eye to the future—specifically to 2016, but with a more general eye to 2030. The focus of the plan is to create an easily accessible environment, utilizing roads and pedestrian walkways, along with a public transportation system that works with the rural character of the Homer Glen area. Although the plan is specific, the Village administrators understand that the area is rapidly growing, and so, are open to changes in the plan to adapt to that growth, focusing on three main areas: flow, aesthetics and, of course, safety.

Homer Glen is not in this alone. In 2005, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) was signed into law, to integrate and oversee transportation concerns for Northeastern Illinois. This body also works with the Council of Mayors, a body organized to promote cooperation between municipalities, one of which is Homer Glen. In addition, Will County is currently working on its own transportation plan, part of which is to address commuter travel patterns. According to Salamowicz, Will County is working on plans to improve 143rd and Bell Road as well as two other main arteries in the Village. “It’s still in the study stage,” he says, although some improvements east of Bell Road on 143rd are further along.”

As with any road system, the idea is to create a good traffic flow for both cars and people, as well as to expand possibilities for public transportation both within the area and extended to neighboring towns and Chicago. To do that, the plan encourages working with state and regional governments to create a smooth, integrated system of transportation. The Homer Glen population is growing rapidly—in 1970, the township population was 6,886. In 2004 it claimed over 33,000 residents, (24,000 of whom lived in the Village) and the estimated population for 2030 is 47,534 in the Village alone. In 2002, a survey found that more than 83 percent of the working population commuted, mainly to the Chicago metropolitan area, with only a small percentage using commuter trains.

biking

A major concern for all is, of course, the reduction of fuel consumption, and to that end, Homer Glen is working toward a “town center” style of growth, which will decrease automobile traffic in the center. Basically, this is the old-time town style of plan, with retail businesses and civic organizations centrally located and walkable from many parts of the Village. The Village Comprehensive Plan also calls for keeping the area mainly for single-family housing with the idea that the result will be less traffic. Studies are underway to examine the feasibility of creating wide, “boulevard-like” streets, as well as attractive, unique signage that would identify Homer Glen as separate from nearby communities.

In addition, the plan developers understand the importance of maintaining the rural environment that makes Homer Glen so desirable. They included in the plan, an abundance of natural landscaping and pleasant walkways between residential neighborhoods and public areas such as schools, parks, shopping and multi-use areas. Attractively-landscaped walking paths are planned to link these areas. “One of the things that our Village is working on is the bike trail system,” says Salamowicz. “Plans have been submitted to IDOT, and we’re hoping for part of the system to start construction sometime next year.”

Current plans call for trails along three major corridors, including along 159th Street and the I-355 spur, as well as following the Will County Trail adjacent to Spring Creek. Such trails and walkways will increase safety as well, moving pedestrians and bike riders off the main streets.

Right now, a comprehensive public transportation system—local buses and trains—is a dream away from Homer Glen. As the Village grows and services are required, officials often find creative solutions through cooperation. For example, the Village does not have its own highway department, and so contracts with the Township for highway services and maintenance. Still, the time will come when such systems will be increasingly necessary.

The future belongs to Homer Glen, and Village officials are looking to that future, planning for a safe, efficient transportation system that will blend into the rural environment that makes Homer Glen the place so many want to call home.

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