By Anna Lothson
Trustees, police and fire officials, residents, and the chair of Oak Park's transportation committee spoke at Monday's village board meeting on the topic of cul-de-sacs vs. diverters, which led to a lengthy discussion about traffic patterns, quality of life, safety and access to the 1200 blocks of Rossell and Elmwood avenues.
Residents of the neighborhood that connects to North Avenue, spoke about drivers who ignore signs and rush through their neighborhoods to avoid lights and congestion during peak travel times. A recommendation from the transportation commission suggested installing a cul-de-sac on Rossell and a traffic diverter on North Elmwood, but neighbors want both blocks treated equally.
Fire Chief Thomas Ebsen and Deputy Police Chief Anthony Ambrose spoke about the safety and access concerns of cul-de-sacs. Fire departments aren't supportive of cul-de-sacs because they interfere with access from major roads, Ebsen said, pointing out that diverters don't cause the same access issues as cul-de-sacs.
Christopher Arado, who lives on Rossell, said there is a "universal understanding that there is a problem on these two streets," and claimed the traffic issues have been affecting quality of life for him and his neighbors. David Huber agreed and spoke about fast traffic coming through a neighborhood with a daycare.
"Cars are whizzing up and down Rossell," Huber said. "Signs are routinely ignored."
Citing statistics accrued by the village and the transportation commission, Elmwood Avenue resident Chris Hermann said his street has a significantly higher traffic volume and has more speeding and parking issues. He suggested the board keep that in mind when determining its decision.
Jack Chalabian, chair of the transportation commission, explained that village staff and the commission did not agree on all elements of the cul-de-sac/diverter proposal, but staff did provide several alternative options for the board to consider.
Trustee Ray Johnson touched on the unique situation of the two blocks and their location near North Avenue, but expressed concern about having cul-de-sacs added in an area that already has two cul-de-sacs nearby.
Trustee John Hedges suggested the board review similar instances so that this and future situations are dealt with fairly. A cul-de-sac study dating back to the 1980s was brought up by Village President David Pope, who, along with two other trustees, lives on a cul-de-sac, and the board later agreed to ask the transportation commission to look into a uniform decision in deciding which streets should have cul-de-sacs and which should have diverters.
The lengthy discussion ended with Johnson's recommendation to follow the staff's option of installing two temporary traffic diverters in the neighborhoods for 4-6 months to test how that affects the problem. From there, staff will come back to the village board to determine a permanent solution.
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