A commissioner’s plan to institute a 30-day test of traffic calming measures at a busy Madison Street intersection was gently scrapped Monday night as the village council discussed other ways in which to mitigate the problems of congestion and speeding.

Commissioner Mark Hosty said in February that he intended to direct village employees to install a four-way stop at the junction of Madison and Circle streets for a month-long trial, and do away with the traffic signals that regulate the bustling corner. Having toured a Chicago neighborhood more than a year ago where similar changes had been made, Hosty rejected the need for engineering studies and said he was confident the stop signs would force drivers to obey the speed limit while increasing safety for pedestrians looking to cross the street.

The plan was arrested, however, and placed on the March 10 agenda for further discussion. No vote was taken to officially nix Hosty’s proposal, but the commissioners made clear the light would not be changed and he conceded the plan was flawed.

“I may not have hit it out of the park, but [pedestrian safety] was the purpose of my proposal,” Hosty said.

Village officials said earlier this month that the 30-day test would have begun March 12.

Both Hosty and Mayor Anthony Calderone, the two most experienced members of the council, said problems with traffic flow through the intersection have dogged the village for a number of years and it is most important to not let the matter go unchecked. None of the elected officials spoke critically of Hosty’s intentions and instead offered praise for bringing the issue to the fore.

“I first want to commend Commissioner Hosty for bringing this longstanding problem to light,” Calderone said.

Mike Ziegler, an engineer with the engineering firm working under contract to the village, addressed the proposal Monday and offered alternative measures to better manage the flow of the 1,000 cars per hour that travel Madison Street during peak times. According to Ziegler, aside from the substantial traffic on the east-west route, motorists must also contend with the heavy volume of cars traveling north and south along Harlem Avenue located two blocks east of Circle Avenue. Perhaps the traffic signals along Madison Street can be better coordinated with the state-operated signals on Harlem Avenue, said Ziegler, but instituting a four-way stop is not the solution.

“Based on the traffic that’s there, we think that would just exacerbate our problems,” Ziegler said.

Council members bandied several other proposals, including stricter enforcement of the parking limits on the south side of Madison Street between Harlem and Elgin streets, stamping the pavement at crosswalks and installing electronic signs that prominently display the speed of oncoming cars.

Commissioners also expressed an interest in understanding how much of the traffic along Madison Street is generated by delays along Interstate 290 and what, if anything, can be done to discourage drivers from using Forest Park as a corridor.

Disabilities group says proposal dangerous

The view from Larry Biondi’s wheelchair may be a difficult perspective for the able bodied to appreciate, but when it comes to crossing a busy intersection Biondi said the bottom line risk is the same for everyone – to safely reach the other side.

Of course, Biondi’s line of sight is more easily obstructed by passing cars and his ability to dodge oncoming traffic is hampered by his physical limitations. But upon learning of a proposal to do away with the traffic light at the junction of Circle and Madison streets, Biondi chuckled that such a move might unite the disabled community with the non-disabled. Wheelchair or not, pedestrians will be at risk if traffic is governed only by a stop sign, said Biondi.

“In a way, it’s progress,” Biondi laughed.

As an advocacy coordinator for the Progress Center for Independent Living in Forest Park, Biondi is on the lookout for ways to improve accessibility for disabled residents. His office is working with business owners to make their stores more accommodating for blind and wheelchair bound shoppers, and has lobbied the village for greater compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But a proposal from Commissioner Mark Hosty to institute a 30-day test of a four-way stop at one of Madison Street’s busiest intersections escaped Biondi’s radar. Upon learning of the plan from the media, Progress Center employees panned the idea as a genuine danger to disabled residents and said they are united with others who may oppose the change.

“If they’re just standing there at a crosswalk, nobody’s going to stop,” Program Director John Jansa said. “Nobody stops for people at crosswalks at all.”

The advantage of a traffic light equipped with pedestrian crossing signals, such as what currently exists at the site, is that it makes clear who has the right of way, said Biondi. Even better, he said, is a traffic signal that gives audible cues to blind pedestrians, such as the light at Madison Street and Desplaines Avenue.

The village as a whole has made strides in improving its accessibility, but too often that progress only comes with prodding, said Biondi. According to several representatives, no one at the Progress Center was notified of the 30-day test. Jansa, an employee since 2002, said the municipality has taken a “patchwork approach” to improving accessibility for handicapped residents.

Josh Adams