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La Grange trustees reluctant to reduce 47th Street lanes

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Restriping would cost $500,000

January 26, 2011

By JANE MICHAELS This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
The La Grange Village Board has shelved a plan to reconfigure 47th Street to three lanes from four, but will study two other options to improve traffic safety.

Following a report by Rosemont traffic consultants KLOA, Inc. and lengthy board discussion Jan. 25, trustees encouraged residents to continue to weigh in on the matter.

“If there's a groundswell of support either for or against the plan, I have no problem with that,” said board member Mark Kuchler, who voiced a number of objections. “I do have a problem with spending resources to advocate this position I'm not in favor of.”

Trustees Bill Holder, Jim Palermo, Mike Horvath and Mark Langan joined Kuchler in casting doubt on whether the plan would be safer for pedestrians and if the cost would outweigh the prospective benefits.

“The vast majority of residents who've approached me have said, ‘Are you kidding me,' and that would be in a bad way,” Holder said of 40 conversations he's had with residents. “If we make it a tough place to get across, do we really improve the quality of life or do we just encourage people to do dumb things.”

After a show of hands signaled a split reaction from about a dozen residents, President Liz Asperger suggested the plan be set aside in favor of pursuing other capital improvements. But Asperger asked for continued feedback from residents and left open the possibility of further study.

Village officials had decided to pursue several traffic studies following the death of Countryside resident Cari Cook, who was struck and killed by an SUV as she walked across at 8th Avenue with her two young children in May 2009. Even after the 47th Street speed limit was reduced to 30 form 35 mph in the fall, the consultants found drivers weren't slowing down. Many motorists are still driving at 38 mph along the 1.5-mile stretch from East Avenue to Gilbert Avenue on the west, the speed study said.

The plan to convert the roadway to one eastbound and one westbound lane separated by a center left-turn lane was proposed as a traffic-calming measure. Consultants said the revised roadway would make traffic flow more smoothly and reduce the number of rear-end crashes and sideswipes, and make it easier for pedestrians to cross.

The proposal would cost at least $500,000 to remark the recently resurfaced roadway under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation, which must grant approval. If the pavement needs more extensive resurfacing to accommodate the reconfiguration, the cost would rise to $2.5 million. If major reconstruction is required, under a proposal to transfer control to La Grange, the cost jumps to $11.5 million.

Trustees balked at the idea of village taxpayers taking on a multimillion dollar expense. Board members offered support for forwarding the results of a related study to IDOT and neighboring municipalities on the feasibility of installing a traffic signal at East Avenue and 47th, currently regulated by a four-way stop. Traffic flow at the intersection is hampered by backups of up to 20-minutes following as many as 50 trains a day using the nearby Indiana Harbor Belt line tracks, the consultant said. Regulating traffic by a signal will help provide gaps in traffic making it easier for pedestrians to cross.

Trustees also agreed to consider installation of two enhanced pedestrian crossings similar to the one with flashing yellow lights at 9th Avenue on 47th Street, which cost $80,000. Funding for enhanced signals at Waiola Avenue and 47th Street and on La Grange Road at 52nd Street will be discussed along with other proposals at a capital improvements workshop slated for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Village Hall, 53 S. La Grange Road.

Consultants said federal and state regulations wouldn't support installing a red light pedestrian signal at 9th Avenue, because it can't be located at least 100 feet from an intersection. In addition, at least 20 people an hour need to be counted crossing there to warrant the red-light signal. Since a new state law took effect Jan. 1, cars are required to stop for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk.

But trustees and residents said not many drivers are complying, and stepped up police enforcement is necessary to educate the public. Several residents of the Waiola Park neighborhood urged the board not to delay in pursuing crucial safety improvements.

“It's like playing chicken with small children trying to cross 47th Street,” said Kathleen Mungo, who lives on the 500 block of Waiola Avenue. “We're heading into the spring season with the park district authorizing additional programs in that park, and more kids will be heading there.”

“It's like the perfect storm. I don't want another tragedy to happen,” Mungo said.

Source: Doings La Grange -,lg-47thstreet-012611-s1.article

Cari Lyn Cook (Stevens)

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