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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

Cari Lyn Cook (Stevens)

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