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Town column: Village must take action on 47th Street safety

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February 3, 2011

By LYNN PETRAK Town columnist

I was flipping around cable channels the other day when I came across a rebroadcast of a special meeting of the La Grange Village Board, called to discuss the findings of a study on 47th Street safety. Before long, I found myself talking back to my television in the same way I do during the fourth quarter of a championship game or when TV trainer Jillian Michaels implores me to do one more push-up.

I know that practically everyone who lives in this town has an opinion on 47th Street. But because this hits home in many ways for me, I am going to share my own opinion on the matter.

47th Street needs to be safer. End of story.

In my view, the La Grange Village Board, at its Jan. 24 meeting, essentially put off efforts to make 47th Street safer. Based on their votes, the leaders did not take immediate action on recommendations of safety experts hired to look at this specific situation.

In my opinion -- and I'm going to keep stressing that is my opinion -- officials should not defer action because they believe a crosswalk may confuse drivers or not cause them to stop or because other solutions are difficult and/or costly to implement.

I believe that a crosswalk with a flashing light at Waiola Park and 47th Street, like the one in place at 47th and 9th Avenue, would be helpful if installed and, more importantly, enforced. I believe that a crosswalk is also needed along Willow Springs Road in front of the Lyons Township High School South Campus, and that signal lights are needed at the perilous intersection of 47th Street and East Avenue

Why do I believe these things? I listened to the experts' suggestions, and I personally know the hazards.

I get a pit in my stomach when my 12- and 13-year-old sons are headed downtown La Grange on their bikes or on foot. I know that boys their age can be impulsive and I know that cars often barrel along 47th Street at a rate of 40 to 50 mph, despite the posted (and reduced) speed limit of 30 mph.

Likewise, although I love walking to town with my younger kids during the summer and on Pet Parade day, I feel like I am taking my life in my hands when we attempt to cross four lanes of 47th Street. Cars are simply going too fast, and there are too many of them.

I also dread navigating the awful corner of 47h and East Avenue to get to the Park District of La Grange's recreation center or to the east side of Sedgwick Park. Drivers don't stop when they should and go when they shouldn't. More than once, I've witnessed vehicles getting broadsided and rear-ended.

I know I am not alone in my worries. I heard some village trustees express their own fears for their children during the televised meeting, and I have received e-mails and calls from several people on this issue.

Kathleen Mungo is one resident who has been vocal about to the need to make changes for 47th Street safety.

"We have a unique problem on 47th Street," points out Mungo, who says she was disappointed that board "voted down every single solution the experts came up with" at the meeting.

Mungo is encouraging residents who are concerned about pedestrian and cyclist safety to contact village trustees and the village president and manager, along with other influential public officials, before the next board meeting. That is a move I wholeheartedly support.

"Send e-mails to the trustees to tell them you want this put on the agenda quickly," Mungo says. "We are already heading into spring in a couple of months and we want the community to have a chance to be heard."

Village leaders repeatedly say they share residents' concerns about 47th Street safety. While I welcome the concern, I want something done about it.

I don't want to hear a sickening crunch or worry about the wail of a close-by ambulance when I know my kids are in the vicinity of 47th Street. That pit in my stomach is as real as my opinion.

Source: Pioneer Local -,la-grange-towncolumn-020311-s1.article

Trustees set aside $100,000 for signal on 47th Street

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February 15, 2011

By JANE MICHAELS This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Funding has been earmarked for an enhanced pedestrian crossing signal at Waiola Avenue and 47th Street in La Grange, after village officials discussed a number of solutions to calm traffic and increase pedestrian safety along the major east-west route.

At a budget workshop Monday, Village Board members informally agreed to set aside $100,000 for a crossing signal, which could have flashing red or yellow lights when activated by a push button.

"I'm absolutely in favor of a pedestrian signal at Waiola," said board member Jim Palermo. "And we do need more enforcement. The compliance situation is just awful at 47th Street and 9th Avenue."

Board members Bill Holder and Mike Horvath said additional funding should be explored to enforce the speed limit of 30 mph on 47th Street, as well as motorists stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk at 9th Avenue.

"We've got limited resources, and he's doing the best he can with what he has," Holder said, referring to Police Chief Michael Holub. "If we want more enforcement, we need to provide the funds."

Board members also suggested an additional crossing signal at Leitch Avenue and a full traffic signal at Spring Avenue to calm traffic.

Village President Liz Asperger suggested the board may want to delay funding the crossing to Waiola Park until assessing the success of proposed enforcement and education efforts at the 9th Avenue crossing.

"We need to be very careful with the community," Asperger said. "Everyone wants to enhance safety, but at the same time, we cannot guarantee for anything we do, there will not be another accident on 47th Street."

Horvath said he didn't see the need for further study, and he opposed delay.

"I'm completely confident if we educate and enforce, it will work. I have no problem with engineering the crosswalk at Waiola while we enforce the one at 9th Avenue," he said. "We've been talking about this for such a long time. Let's just move ahead and not wait."

Joe LaRocco, who lives on the 500 block of Waiola Avenue, urged the board to approve the crossing for his neighborhood.

"I don't' think reducing the speed limit from 35 to 30 mph achieved the goal," LaRocco said. "There's still plenty of motorists traveling at a high rate of speed, creating a dangerous situation."

La Rocco's neighbor, Kathleen Mungo, pressed the board for the next steps on approval for the crosswalk as well as increased enforcement along 47th Street. State transportation officials need to approve the signal, based on traffic and pedestrian counts, which could take about a year, said Public Works Director Ryan Gillingham.

Board members asked Holub to provide an analysis showing how many hours of service could be provided at a particular funding level. The village's proposed operating budget will be discussed at 8 a.m. March 12 at the Village Hall, 53 S. La Grange Road.

Gillingham outlined proposals and updates for 55 other capital improvement projects including road resurfacing, replacing signs with more reflective ones, safety improvements along Willow Road at Lyons Township High School and the Stone Avenue train station renovation.

Other proposals were for sidewalk replacement, replanting trees, combating the emerald ash borer, six sewer improvement projects and remodeling and increasing energy efficiency at the Village Hall, Fire and Police departments and the Public Works building.

Source: Pioneer Local -,la-grange-projects-021711-s1.article

Village, police: Traffic enforcement on 47th Street sufficient

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By Bridget Doyle TribLocal reporter Tuesday at 6:36 a.m.

Village Manager Robert Pilipszyn, second from the right, said village staff believes engineering solutions and public education workshops could be a less expensive alternative to hiring more police officers. (Bridget Doyle/TribLocal photo)

After receiving inquiries from residents about possible increased traffic enforcement along 47th Street, La Grange village and police officials outlined why adding patrol officers isn’t in the village’s current budget at Monday night’s board meeting.

Village Manager Robert Pilipszyn said engineering solutions and specific public education workshops could be a fruitful yet less-expensive alternative to hiring more police officers.

“We don’t believe that increasing resources for this specific purpose is the best thing nor the right answer at this particular time,” Pilipszyn said. “A lot of that is largely a function of being sensitive to village finances. We worked very hard to stabilize village finances by reducing personnel expenses, and that increasing funding for police services has a regressive impact on that objective. Let’s try to keep this budget at least for now.”

Lou Cipparrone, director of finance, highlighted that hiring an additional full-time police officer to aid in traffic enforcement would cost the village about $110,000 per year, while a part-time police officer would cost about $45,000 per year.

Cipparrone said the village’s current financial cost-containment plan focuses on reducing personnel costs while also maintaining village services.

“Although a deficit is still projected for the current year of about $300,000, annual surpluses are projected in three of the five next fiscal years primarily due to the cost containment plan, a gradual economic recovery and planned revenue enhancements currently in the budget,” Cipparrone said.

During the discussion of 47th Street, La Grange police chief Michael Holub outlined considerations to the board in light of possibly increasing traffic enforcement — touching on police resources and personnel as well as past traffic studies of 47th Street.

“Last year, we had a 16.6 percent decline in traffic accidents,” Holub said. “Our department spent 46 percent of our time on driver and traffic enforcement in 2010.”

Holub said 47th Street, along with Ogden Avenue and La Grange Road, is one of the top three areas of enforcement for the department’s 25 patrolling police officers — officers who also respond to on-duty calls that often disrupt regular traffic enforcement.

However, Holub said, information gathered from a pedestrian crosswalk sting, radar speed signs and specific traffic study data all leave him feeling comfortable with the current safety and level of enforcement on 47th Street.

“Ideally we would do much more enforcement at all locations,” Holub said. “But I think we’re doing a remarkable job and I’m impressed with the staff as call demands continue to go up and up that they’re able to raise the bar.”

Village President Elizabeth Asperger said the first draft of the 2011-12 budget would be posted online by Friday at the village’s website,

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Source: Trib Local -

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