A much safer crossing is slated to come to Willow Springs Road between Denning Park and Lyons Township High School South Campus sometime in 2014, complete with traffic signal—but a year and a half is too far away for some.
La Grange resident and mom Nora Valentino is leading the appeal, appearing before the La Grange Board of Trustees on Monday to declare that the status quo on Willow Springs Road is a disaster waiting to happen.
“Mid-2014 is too long to wait to take action,” Valentino said. “Traffic is too fast and it causes problems crossing the road… Waiting to cross is frustrating for the students and can lead to poor decisions and eventually an accident.”
Valentino added that traffic on Willow Springs Road is neglectful of the needs of student pedestrians because of a lack of police presence, as well as adequate signage. She contrasted the crossing to Plainfield Road around Highlands schools, where she said the presence of uniformed guards results in better-behaved drivers.
Additionally, Valentino added, a new path through Denning Park meant to lead pedestrians to the future site of the crosswalk is now commonly used, but leads to no crossing—prompting dangerous jaywalking behavior. She said that the marked crosswalks (like at 47th Street, well out of the way) are little safer.
She found some support from trustees Michael Horvath, Bill Holder and Jim Palermo, all of whom expressed agreement that the village should look into stopgap measures while agreements for the 2014 improvements are being finalized.
Palermo said he’d “got a flavor” for the difficulty of crossing Willow Springs when attending Friday night’s Lyons Township football game, and raised the specter of the May 2009 pedestrian death on 47th Street near 9th Avenue. Horvath pointed out that students are unlikely to detour two blocks out of their way to cross at an intersection.
Holder suggested that parents might consider staffing a crossing-guard patrol, saying that “if my child were still at South Campus, I’d be out there with a stop sign that I stenciled myself.”
But the problems of stopgap steps are myriad.
One of the biggest, Village staff said, is the proximity of Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, and the necessity of maintaining Willow Springs Road as a corridor for emergency vehicles. This means no yellow signs in the middle of the street like on 47th—even temporarily during major student foot traffic hours.
As for police presence, Village President Liz Asperger repeatedly noted that police make every effort to enforce traffic laws, but have many critical locations throughout the village to patrol—and that financial realities do not support any extra staff or staff time.
Village Manager Bob Pilipiszyn also noted that any additional measures might cost money—like an $80,000 pedestrian-activated flashing light—and then be wiped away in a year and a half when the traffic light is installed.
“The discussion continues at this point in time, [but] they have not come up with additional interim solutions that have been found to be safe or suggestive of a proper way to proceed,” Asperger said.
“At this point in time, we do not appear to have a solution in the interim pending the signalization project.”