The village is making some progress in addressing traffic issues Forest Park’s Traffic Safety Commission chair Jordan Kuehn raised in a presentation to the village council last September. Though, so far, plans have avoided making significant changes to traffic lane configuration on Madison.
Kuehn’s presentation recommended improvements for the section of Madison Street between Elgin and Harlem avenues and the crosswalk at Lathrop Avenue and Brown Street, It also drew attention to the fact that there’s no safe way to cross between Veterans Park, 631 Circle Ave. and the village-owned dog park at 632 Circle Ave. It recommended both short-term and long-term solutions.
During the Jan. 23 village council meeting, Commissioner of Streets and Public Improvements Ryan Nero and public works director Sal Stella outlined what the village has done to address them. So far, the village has gone with the simpler solutions, and Stella indicated some of them are still works in progress. Nero said he wanted to share that information to not only let residents know that Forest Park is addressing those issues, but to let Kuehn and other traffic commission members know that their work is valued.
Traffic often backs up on Madison Street as it nears Harlem Avenue, especially with drivers looking to turn left there. There is a median strip and a pedestrian crossing at the spot where the south section of Elgin Avenue dead-ends into Madison. While the crossing isn’t signaled, pedestrians can press a button that activates lights at the “yield to pedestrians” signs on both sides of the crossing.
The issue, the report explained, is that, when the traffic backs up, drivers wanting to turn north on Harlem often shift onto the median, which creates a blind spot for pedestrians using the crosswalk and obstructs the median for emergency vehicles that may need to use it.
The commission suggested four possible solutions that go from simplest to the most complex. One option, listed as the third option, calls for turning existing street parking on Madison into a right turn lane, which would reduce the pressure on the existing eastbound lane and potentially reduce back-ups. The final option, which the report describes as the most expensive of the four, would move the crosswalk west to the point Madison intersects with Elgin as it moves north of Madison. This would, the report states, get rid of the blind spot.
So far, the village went with the combination of the first two options – making sure the pedestrian crossing lights at that point on Madison are working and putting in the “yield to pedestrians” sign at the median. The sign can be folded down when emergency vehicles use the median and when the village is plowing snow. Stella told the council that the signals are working and that the sign has been ordered.
“It will be installed once we receive it,” he said.
The Review went by the stretch of Madison several times over the past week and found that the signals were in working order.
The report also spotlighted another issue with the north leg of Elgin Avenue. Drivers stopping by a Starbucks location at 7231 Madison St. use the alley north of the building to head west to Marengo Avenue and turn south on Marengo to return to Madison Street. The problem is that drivers face blind spots in both direction as they turn on Marengo. The commission recommended installing signs warning drivers of the blind exit and installing mirrors in both directions to give them a better view of Marengo Avenue.
Since then, a mirror has been installed at the right side of the alley, and Stella said that he ordered additional mirrors and a “yield to pedestrians” sign.
Beyond the Madison Street corridor, the report flagged the spot where Brown Avenue dead-ends into Lathrop Avenue. The cars that turn north from Brown onto Lathrop block the pedestrian crossing during rush hour, which is a particular issue for families heading to Forest Park’s Oak Park Montessori School on the other side of the intersection, at 16 Lathrop Ave. The commission recommended repainting the yellow curb in front of the school – something that, Stella said, has since been done.
Stella and Nero didn’t address another major issue flagged in the report – the lack of a clearly marked pedestrian crosswalk between the two village-owned parks on the opposite sides of Circle Avenue.
Nero said he was pleased with the progress the village is making.
“I just want to thank the council members for working together with traffic and safety to not only hear the concerns of the residents,” he said. “[It was good] to hear that the process worked, that the loop is closed, and these issues have been resolved.”