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Stop Sign or Not?

Last night's Transportation Commission meeting was one of the rare instances of being able to take part in citizen government and really make positive change for the community. We had a chance to think carefully about a dangerous traffic situation, weigh a variety of good options, collect amazing data, hear from the public, and ultimately help honor a neighborhood request for safer streets. Quite satisfying.

The T intersection between my daughter's elementary school and a local park is a nightmare. It sees high volumes of cars as a collector street, pedestrians crossing, is a bicycle route, a school bus loading zone, and is sandwiched between two traffic lights with parked cars on both sides of the street. While the overall crash rate for the intersection wasn't horrible, two of the accident reports on file were injured children trying to cross at this difficult crosswalk. One was with a group of children. The other was a child in a stroller. Lots of moving parts including the ability to pull out of an alley without clear sightlines, bike traffic that is merging into a "May Use Full Lane" situation after a painted bike lane.

Staff recommendation was against installing a 3-way stop sign. The car data didn't really support a typical installation. It would be unwarranted by the volume of traffic--meaning it would likely be violated if seen as unwarranted. Plus, stop signs at that location may interfere with the traffic light timing and back up auto traffic. On the other hand, we had a high pedestrian volume with injured children and stop signs are cheap and legally require a full stop giving time/attention for crossing.

The other alternative was the one being recommended by village staff...flashing, user-activated RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon) crossing signs. Essentially a high-visibility blinking light when pedestrians are present to alert motorists that they are required to stop and pay more attention. The tab for these would be about $30,000--I asked--but the money already exists in the budget to purchase once approved by the Trustees.

I think almost everyone on the commission could make an argument for both. Even up to the very end, I went back and forth about what my own thoughts were. Stop signs are cheap and, on one level, easy. Flashing RRFB would be the first use of them on the inside of the village (they are currently used on a perimeter street). The discussion also brings up philosophical themes of whether it's better to go for overkill in an effort to eliminate a problem situation or start small with the risk of injury or harm in the meantime. Who gets preference...cars or school kids? Is there a solution that reduces stress for both? In that regard, I think the flashers will help but not impede traffic at non-crossing times. Not every car is going to stop for the flashing pedestrian crossing sign. But, then again, not every car would stop for a stop sign either.

The other item on our agenda was very similar. A private school had requested an intersection be upgraded to a four-way stop after neighborhood meetings. Also part of the petition was a request about an existing, part-time one-way restriction during school drop off (and pick up). Village staff was in favor of us recommending the stop sign upgrade there. Fairly easy, normal residential street without unusual circumstances. But they did not recommend we "adjust up" the one-way restrictions to be more permanent and take up more of the day (via official signs). The traffic engineers like two-way traffic for local home access. And the movable barricade already in use could be more effective if the school was holding up their end of the agreement outlining how it should be used. Seemed like more of a communication issue--to me--than something the commission needed to take up. We were not eager to add to the confusion that already exists.

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