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Willow Springs Road Crossing Safety Measures Proposed as Stopgap

The La Grange Board of Trustees is largely supportive of interim measures for making the crossing to LT South Campus safer, but currently “do not have a solution.”

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.”

Chuck Lichtenauer November 16, 2012 at 02:20 PM
How about teaching drivers to be more aware, respectful and drive defensively i.e. SLOW DOWN going through this area. Everyone is in such a hurry to get to where they are going they are not looking for anyone trying to get out into traffic or cross an intersection.
Billy Gallagher November 16, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Ben, I suggest you read this story: http://www.mgexperience.net/article/nice-drive.html Perhaps you will learn to understand that more regulations does not equal better living.
Mouse November 17, 2012 at 01:54 AM
It doesn't matter. The kids cross wherever they want to and I've had them run out in front of my car in groups, laughing while looking right at the drivers. Put in a traffic light and they'll do the same thing. You want to stop it? Put up a fence along Willow Springs on the LTHS side with only one opening at the crosswalk. And enforce the existing regulations against jaywalking. Of course you won't do either and expect the least at fault people here--drivers--to carry both the expense and the hassle of this absurd waste of money while the kids keep doing what they always do.
Mouse November 17, 2012 at 01:57 AM
Susan, this is typical LT parent behavior. Their precious little darlings can't possibly be at fault for anything so we waste almost $100K in tax money on something that does absolutely nothing to solve the nonexistent problem. Have you looked at your property tax bill? Are you as outraged as most are at how much money this school district spends? A good chunk of it is due to parents like the one behind this fiasco.
Joseph R. Martan November 19, 2012 at 04:54 PM
How true, how true. But of course we can't disappoint the pushy soccer moms - they might throw a temper tantrum if they don't get their way.

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