J. Martin Konecki’s One View that “every traffic control request should be looked at on an individual basis” [Thanks for stop sign at Division and Woodbine, Viewpoints, June 23] is precisely the problem with stop signs and traffic planning in Oak Park. Approving the stop sign at Division and Woodbine was a bad decision then, and it remains so now. Here’s why:
Division is a major east-west artery bringing traffic both to and from the village, and on through to River Forest and Dominican University. So it is not at all like those streets he cites – like south Lombard, Harvard and Fillmore – which do not have large amounts of traffic and have a stop sign on nearly every block. Division traffic needs to move in an effective and safe manner, and stop signs gum this up. The more you have, the more gummed up it becomes. Put in enough of them and you move traffic to other side streets not designed to carry it.
Stop Signs are the most restrictive traffic-control means. They work 24 hours a day whether there is a need or not. When they are placed, as the Woodbine-Division one is so close to Kenilworth and Division, they lose their effectiveness. Drivers begin to ignore them. And stricter enforcement is not the answer, either. Willing compliance, drivers following traffic rules that make sense, is the desired result. Dumb traffic stops thwart compliance.
The transportation commission had it right. They and Village Engineer Jim Budrick proposed cutting the speed to 25 mph on that part of Division, installing special flashing yellow lights and special in-the-street markings. Let’s add extensive tree trimming on Division to further increase long-distance visibility. These things would work a lot more effectively than the stop sign.
Not all north side residents were clamoring for a Woodbine-Division stop sign. For the proponents, nothing but a stop sign would work. Their cause came to a head when a boy was struck and injured by a terrible driver without insurance. He is not the norm; he is the exception. There have been no serious pedestrian-vehicle accidents there in 40 years. Chief Rick Tanksley ordered a temporary stop sign because of their protests and in the interest of safety. So that accident become the cause celebre to descend upon the village Trustees meeting to plow any reasoned options aside to get their way. They did get their way, unfortunately, and we have specialized neighborhood interests trumping what should be a village-wide approach to moving traffic safely and effectively. And that’s really unfortunate because we have a poor solution and could have the best and most effective one.
Mr. Konecki in his column holds special rancor for President Pope and Trustee John Hedges for voting against his special interests. However, the ones we should hold in contempt are those trustees who caved in to these special interests rather than letting things cool down and then working with the village engineer and the transportation commission to come up with a more effective solution. Traffic control in Oak Park is a hot-button issue and we need to listen to more knowledgeable village staff who can see traffic problems from a wider and more effective vantage point. We do not need inflamed rhetoric or our public servants and volunteer transportation commission members being demeaned. We need solid, results-based solutions.
President Pope and the trustees should revisit this in the fall when temperatures are cooler. Then we can achieve the better answer.
Charles Wells is an Oak Park resident.