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More 47th Street safety measures in the works

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A traffic consultant for La Grange has recommended installing a flashing yellow traffic signal, rather than a red light device to improve pedestrian safety along 47th Street east of La Grange Road.

Consultants KLOA Inc., based in Rosemont, are expected to provide a report in August detailing the rationale behind that and other recommendations to boost safety along all major thoroughfares.

Pedestrian safety has been a top priority following the death of 30-year-old Cari Cook of Countryside, who was struck May 19 while crossing south on 47th Street at 8th Avenue.

"The flashing yellow light is thought to be the best balance for pedestrian safety and traffic flow," said Village Manager Bob Pilipiszyn. "There are a variety of technical factors."

In late June, crews cut openings on curbs of non-aligned streets crossing 47th Street between 6th and 10 avenues. Neighbors have complained about the curbs as barriers, and Cook was hit by an SUV as she lifted her daughter's stroller over the curb at 8th Avenue.

Visibility was increased at the 9th Avenue crosswalk with reflective paint striping the street and additional signs warning motorists of the crossing. In addition, signs were installed in the middle of the street warning motorists of a state law requiring them to stop for pedestrians.

"State law requires motorists to yield when pedestrians are more than half way into the crosswalk," said Police Chief Michael Holub. "Failure to yield is a moving violation, subject to a fine, not a minor offense."

While the signs are designed to have a calming effect on the traffic and make motorists more aware of the crosswalk, they're not intended to give pedestrians a false sense of security in striding across 47th Street.

"I hope it doesn't create unrealistic expectations by pedestrians. When I'm walking, I never think about my rights as a pedestrian," Holub said. "If it's between me and a car, the car will always win. We're in a very active urban area, and there's a shared responsibility between pedestrians and drivers."

Village Board member Mike Horvath agreed the pedestrian crossing signal isn't a guaranteed safe passage for pedestrians. Horvath he was struck as a 10-year-old by a car that didn't stop in a crosswalk despite a flashing yellow light. He received 800 stitches.

One neighborhood resident of southeastern La Grange said while the curb cuts are a welcome improvement, trees should be trimmed along 47th street to increase visibility, and the speed should be lowered with increased enforcement.

"I have to cross that street every day to get to the train, and the police need to pull people over," said David Herndon of the street's 35 mph limit. "Ogden is 30 mph, why isn't 47th Street?"

Pilipiszyn said consultants are preparing a proposal to conduct a speed study, the first step in petitioning to lower the limit to 25 from 35 mph. The Illinois Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over 47th Street, must approve the change.

Eric Knutson, who lives two blocks south of 47th Street on La Grange Road, said he opposes lowering the speed limit to 25 from 35 mph in front of his house, another stretch identified for a proposed reduction.

"I'm happy with 35 mph," Knutson said. "Studies show that less than one half the drivers comply when the speed limit is lowered and accidents actually increase."

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Cari Lyn Cook (Stevens)
(1978-2009)

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