I would like to publicly thank Chief Rick Tanksley and the Oak Park Police Department for placing a stop sign at Division and Woodbine. [Stop sign made permanent, News, June 9] Not only did the chief place a temporary stop sign the same day after a 4-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle not obeying a crosswalk, but the police department is enforcing it. The stop sign is clearly working and for that, I, along with many local residents and users of the Field Park, are extremely grateful.
Another group of folks who are very deserving of thanks are the five village trustees who voted in favor of the stop sign being permanent. Their voice of reason, logic and common sense prevailed, and the community as a whole is better off for it.
I respectfully disagree with the transportation commission Chair Paul Aeschleman, Village Engineer Jim Budrick, Village President David Pope and Trustee John Hedges.
Aeschleman summed up the reactions from residents who attended the transportation commission meeting on April 26 as being satisfied with the recommendations that did not include a stop sign. He said in the June 7 village board meeting, “It appeared the design was sufficient.” That was correct, the only thing he left out was that an accident occurred after the April 26 meeting, and in the meantime the recommendations had not made it to the village board to vote on and implement them. I am not sure if that is the “normal” amount of time it takes for a recommendation to make it to the board’s agenda, but April 26 to June 7 seems like a long time with regards to safety. It took the police chief all of five or so hours to react to a safety issue and place a temporary stop sign there. It is one thing to keep your position before there was a stop sign, but after the sign was put up and you see the desired outcome including both traffic slowing down and a much, much safer pedestrian crossing, you should be open-minded to the idea that a stop sign can and will do what we all want.
The main reason for respectfully disagreeing with the village engineer is the precedent issue in regards to stop signs in other parts of the village. Let me point out that on South Lombard from Roosevelt going north there is a stop sign at every intersecting street from Fillmore all the way down to Pleasant, and then it dead ends at the public works building. Another example is Harvard west of Oak Park Avenue. What about Lake Street with traffic controls at Kenilworth, Forest, Marion and Harlem? Then there is Fillmore southeast of Barrie Park. Needless to say, if pedestrian safety is at stake, by all means set a precedent!
The rationale that both President Pope and Trustee Hedges gave for voting no was that they felt this particular stop sign around a park was a “bigger issue” that needed some guidance. I get the sense that they both felt that the precedent that would be set by voting on this particular stop sign would somehow hinder or help the chances of other signs or controls in other parts of the community. That argument does not ring true for me because every traffic control request should be looked at on an individual basis. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Prior to the vote, the transportation chair said park crossings by busy streets were on the committee’s annual agenda to take up. The village board can also choose to take up the policy-level items at its pleasure. That is what boards do – set policy. The busy streets and parks in Oak Park have not changed locations for the last 50 years. I feel as though this particular issue had gone through all the proper channels and processes that were required by the village, and it finally made it to the board to vote on and then Pope and Hedges voted “no” because they felt that a more holistic approach needed to take place. To me that just seems as though it ignores and disregards current process and procedure. More time and more studies don’t always mean better solutions! I would have hoped for more in terms of sending a message of safety especially from our top leader, President Pope, and from Trustee Hedges, who ran the Oak Park parks for more than 20 years.
Again, I applaud the chief for his quick actions and the five trustees for their votes and look forward to safer crossings through out this great village.
J. Martin Konecki is an Oak Park resident who lives near the intersection of Division and Woodbine.