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Sausage being made

Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made. --John Godfrey Saxe, 1869
Time for another Transportation Commission meeting last night. And the first item on our agenda was one that has been ongoing since long before I joined the team. These poor residents. They first petitioned the commission in November of 2012 about traffic problems on their block. It's now 2015 and they are before us yet again.

The heart of the matter is that, when speed bumps were recommended by us (previous to me) as a traffic calming device, the Village Board rejected the recommendation and reaffirmed the general policy of no speed bumps on residential streets. So, while there has been improved ticket-writing by police and the installation of No Right Turn signs on the major cross street, it left the Transportation Commission reaching for some other method of traffic control. At that point, we installed a temporary choker--essentially a collection of bollards and parking blocks to be replaced by permanent street narrowing--for a 3 month test. The usual test period is 6 months but the commission requested a quick turnaround to hopefully get the ball rolling for these residents.

Last night, the data from the 3 month test was presented and showed a significant reduction in both speed and traffic volume. But residents were pretty clear that it was not their preferred choice...especially considering a Special Service Area would mean they would be paying for it. The larger issue for this block is that Oak Park has gradually created cul-de-sacs and diverters that make the street in question one of the few remaining open routes from a major congested arterial into the neighborhoods of the village. By being one of the last-blocks-standing, so to speak, they see larger traffic volume and speeds. It's a case of past policy coming back to bite...one resident pointed out last night that the village is unlikely to open all the other streets up. So why should her street by the one forced to deal with the speeding? Then the village rejects a non-"terminal" method of helping their street? Not to mention the length of time involved in getting the problem solved? The anger is justified.

So our recommendation was for a diverter to be installed on the block just past the alley to cut the traffic flow. Maybe not ideal. But the residents seemed to like it and even mentioned their willingness to pay for it. But, in the bigger picture, the Transportation Commission also plans to send a letter to the Village Board to ask that we re-open the discussion on speed bumps. Or at least let's talk about what is in our "toolbox" of traffic devices. Is it time to talk speed trailers? Are chicanes ok? Does Oak Park need roundabouts?

The irony for us last night was that the next item on the agenda was a renovation of Barrie Park which includes a raised speed table between the park and the recreation center. It's hard to tell the residents of one block that speed bumps on their street (where traffic data is showing 30 mph speeds in a 25mph zone) are a no-go while the residents of another block are slated to get a fancy raised speed-reducing crosswalk platform because that block happens to have a park on it...a park which benefits from a fancy Master Plan developed by hired consultants.

I hope this block gets its diverter. But, more than that, I'm a helpless member of the sausage-making process who is sad it took so long.

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