Driver behavior a concern at Oak Park intersection
Most of the Friday morning northbound traffic on Wisconsin Avenue at Washington disobeyed the "right turn only" sign by going straight or turning left onto Washington Boulevard. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 14, 2012 1:07PM
OAK PARK — Kari McCarthy takes care when crossing Washington and Wisconsin avenues with her kids to go to the nearby YMCA.
Living just one building from the intersection, McCarthy is never quite sure what motorists will do despite there being “right turn only” signs and traffic diverters on northbound and southbound Wisconsin.
“(Motorists) don’t obey those,” McCarthy said of the signs. “It is almost worse having the ‘right turn only’ signs because they aren’t followed. You assume drivers are turning.
“When one of my little ones was smaller, a car swerved around me and the stroller. All people want to do is get to the next light as fast as possible.”
Village data backs the unsafe feelings of McCarthy and other area residents. A recent village traffic survey noted motorists on Wisconsin disregarded the “right turn only” signs 28 percent of the time.
That data and residents’ concerns have Oak Park officials looking to lobby the state to put stop lights at the intersection. Because Washington is an unmarked state route, any improvements to the road must go through the state.
With the “right turn only” signs and traffic diverters sending people away from Wisconsin/Marion stores and services, the Pleasant District Association Business Group had requested the turning restrictions be removed. Area businesses owners noted that when road construction and streetscape work was done in summer 2011, the “right turn only” restrictions were removed on southbound Wisconsin and traffic moved fine.
This July, the diverter was re-established.
“Removal of the diverters at Washington and Wisconsin is something we asked the Village Board to consider to support, remedy and ease streetscape-related issues,” said Carla Gini, secretary of the Pleasant District Association Board. “We were all enthusiastic to let people know the Pleasant District was open for business during construction. We want to let people know we are open for business post-construction, too.”
Gini said residents have shown a “fabulous spirit of cooperation” and that the business district’s request is in no way a sign of disregard for their safety concerns.
She said a stop light or four-way stop at the intersection would meet residents’ safety concerns and business owners’ desire to allow motorists to head south and north on Wisconsin, which becomes Marion Street farther north.
“We want to move commerce through the village,” Gini said.
Jame Kiel, a neighbor of McCarthy’s, said something must be done to improve pedestrian safety.
“I walk and cars are going at a good clip there, over the 30-mph limit,” Kiel said. “It is very dangerous to cross.”
The village’s Transportation Commission wants enhanced pedestrian crossing signs, including in-pavement “Stop for pedestrians in crosswalk” signs near the intersection.
Village Engineer Michael Koperniak said the “right turn only” diverters are an effort to keep down accidents. Despite the diverters, the intersection still has a substantial accident rate.
The last study done at the intersection showed an accident rate of 3.4 collisions per 1 million vehicles.
“When you get to four (collisions per 1 million vehicles), it is considered a high crash rate,” Koperniak said.