As the $1.6 million road improvement project on the north side of town nears completion, some residents say the work has only made traffic matters worse, while others believe it is “the best thing to ever happen.”
The debate mainly focuses on the newly constructed “bump-outs” along Franklin Street. These are sidewalk extensions that jet into the road about eight feet on each side of the street near the corners of an intersection. Along with enhancing the aesthetics of the area (planters and benches will be installed on the extra sidewalk space), the goal was also to make the road “more pedestrian friendly,” according to Commissioner Mark Hosty.
By narrowing the streets at the crosswalk, he said, there is less time for pedestrians to be in “danger” in the street. The re-design was also intended to calm traffic by reducing the number of drivers who try to pass other cars by using the parking lane, he said.
But Brad and Adrienne Harum, who live on Franklin and describe it as a busy thoroughfare, said that the bump-outs have made traffic problems “ten times worse” than before.
“It’s slowing [the cars] down, but they are honking constantly,” said Adrienne Harum, who said she can’t sit on her front porch in the evenings because the horns are too “annoying.”
“They wanted more congestion to slow it down, but to me, you’d think you’d want to ease congestion so that traffic can flow more freely,” she said. “Now you have congestion and people honking because they don’t know what to do; they can’t fit around each other.”
The couple said “it gets crazy” as cars, trucks and semis try to make their way through the intersections.
“It was a nice idea, but it was just poorly executed,” Adrienne Harum said.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said it was too soon to cast judgment on the project since it is not quite finished. He said part of the current problem could be a result of the construction equipment still on the street.
“It’s still the middle of a construction site and so there’s confusion as to where people are supposed to be going,” he said. Once complete, “I am confident that most people will be happy with the improvement.”
Terry Hemstreet, also a resident on Franklin, is already one of those people. He said the bump-outs are “the best thing to ever happen.”
“It was dangerous with people racing down here all the time,” he said. “It does help slow people down. They’re funneling traffic, and they achieved that.”
However, the street is not problem-free just yet, he said. Hemstreet takes issue with how far back a stop sign is at the five-point intersection at Franklin, Brown and Desplaines.
“It’s a very dangerous intersection,” he said. “People just don’t stop here. It’s a joke.”
Hemstreet said the village needs to move the stop sign further up and possibly add another stop sign at Franklin and Rockford, also to prevent cars from speeding down the road. The Harums, on the other hand, both would like to see the village close off the street altogether.
“The only solution is to dead-end or cul-de-sac these streets,” Adrienne Harum said.
Bump-outs are not new to Forest Park. The ones on Franklin were modeled off of the bump-outs previously built at Jackson and Harvard. This particular construction project, though, also included road resurfacing, some water main and alley work, as well as LED lighting that still remains to be installed. The work is expected to be finished by Oct. 1.