Village studying how it can cut Touhy traffic congestion


The Village of Niles is studying ways to reduce traffic congestion on Touhy Avenue between Leigh Avenue and Caldwell Avenue in light of redevelopment plans for the area, according to Alderman Mary O’Connor (41st).

"Mayor (Andrew) Przybylo is willing to work with us," O’Connor said at the Nov. 12 meeting of the North Edgebrook Civic Association. "He is not looking at traffic like it is Chicago’s, and it is not (the village’s) problem."

Residents have expressed concern that a new Fed Ex sorting and distribution center that is being built near Lehigh and Howard avenues in Niles and a long-range plan to create an entertainment district with a hotel on the north side of Touhy would increase traffic congestion. The south side of Touhy is in Chicago, and most of the north side of that stretch is in Niles. Traffic is extremely congested during rush hour and on Saturdays.

Association president Erick Robertson said that North Edgebrook residents are concerned that they will have little say in the redevelopment plans "just because of a municipality line."

O’Connor told the association that while plans are preliminary, the village is studying the feasibility of creating a "cut-through" street that would make it easier to access Gross Point Road from businesses on Touhy. "They want to divert more traffic to Gross Point," she said.

Some residents said after the meeting that Gross Point is not a convenient option for motorists because traffic heading northeast is required to turn south onto Lehigh, from which the next traffic light is at Touhy. They said that drivers who turn south on Lehigh often make an illegal U-turn to gain access to the northbound lanes, from which they can turn east onto Howard Street and then left onto Gross Point.

The residents also said that the Costco store at 7311 N. Melvina Ave. attracts many customers from the north suburbs and that improvements to Gross Point, including new signs that direct shoppers to the street, could alleviate some of the traffic problems on Touhy.

O’Connor also reported that the Przybylo believes that Touhy does not have the capacity to handle the additional traffic that will be generated by the Fed Ex center and that the company has discussed a plan to keep some of its traffic off Touhy and Lehigh with village officials.

A village spokesman said that Fed Ex is planning to instruct the drivers of its semi-trailer trucks and other large vehicles to use routes that will avoid the Touhy-Lehigh intersection. The village made the request based on the results of a traffic study that was done for the project.

The Fed Ex center is being constructed on the former site of W.W. Grainger Industrial Supply, 5959 W Howard St. The project calls for 249 exterior trailer stalls and 556 employee parking spaces.