Motorists on LaGrange Road should find it a little easier to tell whether they're in Tinley Park or Orland Park in 2015, when the state finishes widening the thoroughfare from 131st Street to Interstate 80.
Tinley Park -- from 179th to 171st streets -- will have a median with a bounty of flora native to the area and visually reflecting the surrounding open space between 163rd Street and Interstate 80. The median, fairly continuous except for the 175th Street intersection, also will contain stacked limestone pieces.
Other improvements include construction of a sidewalk on the east side, installation of parkway landscape enhancements, stamped/colored concrete crosswalks and upgraded traffic signals at 171st and 179th streets.
Orland Park also is upgrading its median from 171st to 131st streets, but is differentiating itself with additional landscape and hardscape improvements that include brick pavers along the medians and sidewalks, enhanced cross walks, median walls and columns, median and parkway trees and decorative street lighting.
By going beyond the Illinois Department of Transportation's standard, Tinley Park and Orland Park are able to incorporate individual "visual clues" into the $95 million expansion of LaGrange Road from four to six lanes.
"There's a definite change of theme from Tinley Park to Orland Park, a different look and feel," said Dale Schepers, Tinley Park public works director.
Village Trustee Dave Seaman agreed. "It's basically a way of saying, 'You're in Tinley Park'," he said, adding it's part of a larger effort "to turn a sea of concrete into something that is attractive."
Seaman led the village board's action last week to approve reimbursing IDOT $367,845. Approximately $150,000 of it will cover the cost of relocating 1,300 feet of village water main.
Seaman, who chairs the board's finance committee, said the village saves money by piggybacking on a larger project undertaken by the state.
"It's an opportunity to leverage IDOT's construction," he said. "They're already there."
Schepers said Tinley Park's "good-looking, fairly sustainable and aesthetically-pleasing grouping" on LaGrange Road would be based on a plan developed by Site Design Group of Chicago for the Harlem Avenue medians. It will be fine-tuned for the local project and incorporate what the village has learned in the two years since the Harlem Avenue medians were installed.
For example, the native plants on LaGrange Road will be a more salt-resistant variety, and planted in deeper soil, Schepers said.
Although the plants need no additional care in their native environments, they will need special attention in the LaGrange Road median, which becomes a "heat island" due to surrounding asphalt and motor vehicles. "During the first couple of years, we're going to irrigate more regularly," he said, to increase survival rates. "I don't think we're going to be able to get away from it completely."
By adapting the Harlem Avenue median plan, "[w]e probably saved half the cost of producing new construction documents," Schepers said, estimating the amount at $20,000.