Driving through one of Forest Park’s major intersections could soon be dramatically different. Public officials are crossing their fingers that a 30-day test without traffic lights at Circle and Madison streets will lessen congestion there.
The busy intersection, now governed by a set of traffic lights, will soon instead be outfitted with stop signs and a flashing red light mandating that traffic from all directions come to a halt before proceeding.
Commissioner Mark Hosty, who oversees departments in charge of road maintenance, says that rush-hour snarls could be helped by doing away with traffic lights.
Hosty, who has not studied the flow of traffic through this Forest Park intersection, did several years ago tour a Chicago neighborhood where many of the city’s traffic programs are tested. He says that, according to that presentation, stop signs at four-way intersections can make for a smoother progression and help calm traffic along those roads.
Beginning sometime this month, most likely, the village will test Hosty’s theory for 30 days. Should the stop signs prove effective in easing congestion, Hosty will need approval from the village council to make the change permanent.
The only public official to question the plan at a recent council meeting was Mayor Anthony Calderone. And when word got to a neighboring village after the meeting, Oak Park’s Village Engineer Jim Budrick said, “That’s probably the worst possible idea.”
Budrick, who has a master’s degree in transportation engineering, says that Forest Park can, with the installation of a four-way stop at Circle and Madison, expect to see more fender benders at that intersection. He predicts pedestrians will have a tougher time navigating traffic there as drivers become confused over who has the right of way.
On municipal roads that intersect with state highways, local governments cannot time their traffic signals perfectly with those operated by the state. Harlem Avenue, a state-maintained roadway that serves as the line between Oak Park and Forest Park, is controlled by a series of lights that are under the auspices of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
According to Budrick, any problems Forest Park is seeing with its eastbound Madison Street traffic likely stems from being out of synch with the Harlem Avenue signal, which is immediately east of Circle Avenue.
The best answers, he said, will come from evaluating the state’s traffic signals and working to time the municipal lights with those controlled by IDOT.
But Hosty says Forest Park’s traffic problems have more to do with a traffic light farther east on Madison Street at the Maple Avenue intersection in Oak Park.
Budrick’s criticism is “odd, at best,” said Hosty, pointing to Oak Park’s unwillingness to work with Forest Park on a previous traffic issue.
Mike Sturino, village administrator in Forest Park, said concerns were raised that without traffic lights, emergency vehicles may have a tougher time clearing the intersection. Bob Kutak, director of the department of public works, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the proposal.
Mayor Calderone said that, without any current study of traffic at that intersection, he has reservations about judging the impact of Hosty’s 30-day pilot. Calderone said that before the four-way stop is installed, he would have the police department add devices to the intersection to measure traffic for speed and volume.
“I don’t think the appropriate solution at Circle and Madison should be based just on intuition,” Calderone said.