Oak Park and River Forest High School will begin a traffic study later this month as part of its plans to install lights at its football stadium by next year.
The study will be conducted by T.Y. Lin International, a San Francisco-based engineering firm with offices in Chicago.
The study will cost $7,300 and will involve looking at traffic flow and parking around the school, 201 N. Scoville, and nearby stadium.
The study is scheduled to begin Sept. 30-pending approval of the firm’s contract-during the start of OPRF’s Homecoming weekend football and soccer games.
The Dist. 200 Board of Education approved lights for the stadium in March. Among the provisions for approval was that the school conduct a study on traffic flow near the stadium. Complaints from some neighbors opposed to lights included that traffic and parking congestion would increase if night games were added.
“We want to see how [traffic congestion] will impact night games and what we can do to minimize the impact on neighbors because it will have an impact,” said Jack Lanenga, OPRF asst. supt. for operations.
The study will also look at pickup and drop-off times during regular hours before and after school in the morning and afternoon, said John LaPlante, project manager and director of traffic engineering for T.Y. Lin.
“Our main focus will be to look at traffic counts when the games are going on, traffic flow and where parking takes place,” he said. “We also want to look at regular patterns just so we can get an idea of how things move there.”
The study will be done on random days and will not interfere with traffic and pedestrian activity around the school, Lanenga said.
He added that he would like to have one of the dates occur on a rainy day. Traffic, he noted, increases at the school because fewer kids walk home when it rains.
The study is scheduled to conclude in November. Lanenga said the results of the study should be completed by that time and that a report should be ready to present to the board and community.
Village Engineer Jim Budrick said the village will review the study when it’s completed.
“We want to look at how the traffic is projected,” he said. “That’s one of the things we look at-what impact will this have on our system.”
One result could be installing extra stop signs at intersections or increased police patrol.
Oak Park Deputy Police Chief Bob Scianna said that police routinely increase its patrol during special events, including high school games at the stadium. The village uses both vehicle and pedestrian police officers, he said. Cars are assigned at Lake and Scoville during games. Scianna said it would be the same procedure for night games.
“We may have to assign more officers because it’s a night game and it’s dark, but it would just be one more thing we do over there,” he said.
Though the board already approved installing lights at the stadium, it could stop the process based on the results of the study, Lanenga said.
“They may look at the study and say, ‘It’s too much of a headache, traffic will be a mess,’ and not go forward with it,” he said. “The board will have the final say on that.”
If the board approves the study, a stadium lights plan could be ready to send to the Village of Oak Park Plan Commission or Zoning Board of Appeals by December. Hearings would likely take place in January, said Lanenga.
But even if the board gives its approval, the village could still reject plan, Lanenga warned.
“There are two points where it could stop. The board could say no or the village could stop it,” he said.
Lanenga said if both the Dist. 200 board and the village approve it, the likeliest date to install lights at OPRF’s stadium would be the next summer.