With cars hitting houses, and reported close calls with children, a south Oak Park intersection is in dire need of traffic calming.
After over a decade of neighborhood petitions and complaints, the corner of Harvard Street and Oak Park Avenue, two blocks north of Roosevelt Road, will be getting a traffic light.
The addition was approved as part of Oak Park’s 2008 budget, at a cost of $125,000. The village felt the light was needed, based on accident history, traffic volume and the number of children crossing the intersection, said Village Engineer Jim Budrick
The village board will approve a company to do the work in June. Work should start this summer and wrap up in October or November, he said.
The light won’t have left turn signals and will be comparable to one at Harvard and Ridgeland avenues near Irving Elementary School.
Residents in that area say the intersection has been a problem to cross for years.
“It’s really hard to get across the street there, so I would love to see a light,” said Michele Zurakowski, co-president of the Lincoln Parent Teacher Organization. She has two children, in second and fourth grade, who sometimes ride their bikes across the intersection to get to nearby Rehm and Euclid parks, sometimes with great difficulty.
Barbara Rush, 48, runs a daycare business out of her house and has two children who attend Lincoln. Between the two commitments, she has to cross Oak Park Avenue more than six times a day.
“When you have a bunch of little kids, [crossing the street] can be an issue,” she said.
Rush recalled a time when a car barreled towards the intersection, almost hitting two children, even with a crossing guard right there.
Oak Park installed small yellow lights, submerged in the asphalt, in 1997 to help with traffic there. When pedestrians pressed a button, the lights would blink and traffic would slow for them. But Rush said the device didn’t work. Some drivers wouldn’t think to look down at the lights. Others would stop, but the cars behind them would just try to drive around.
“I’ve never seen that in a driving manual, that I’m supposed to be looking at the ground telling me to stop,” she said.
Rush noted it’s important to continue having a crossing guard at the intersection after the light is installed in order to keep it safe.
Budrick said the traffic light won’t change any stop signs or other traffic elements around the area. He said Oak Park has no plans to add any other lights in the near future.
Residents have been submitting petitions for a traffic light at that intersection since 1995, according to village records, but that corner didn’t meet the requirements. In the most recent study, however, the village found there weren’t big enough gaps in traffic to allow school children to cross Oak Park Avenue. Harvard would also create another east-west route south of the expressway and make it easier for drivers to make left turns at the intersection, according to village documents.
Village staff recommended installing the light in 1995, but nearby residents protested the move. They worried the light would increase congestion, noise and pollution, decrease property values, and light from the signal would shine in residents’ homes, according to the village.
“Traffic lights are a pain in the neck, but I think in that situation, they’re a good thing,” said Paul Aeschleman, chair of the Transportation Commission. .