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School Traffic Safety Update

School Safety Task Force is following Gewalt-Hamilton recommendations for a new traffic signal at Central Park and Main - community input at Aug 6 (Skokie Board) and Aug 8 (Task Force) meetings

To the many Skokie residents concerned about traffic safety near our schools, I wanted to point out that there have been some recent developments which are going to be discussed at public meetings this week (Aug 6 and Aug 8), which I do not believe have been well advertised – especially considering the general citizen reaction to the death of Carter Vo.  As such, I would encourage you all to attend both the Village of Skokie Board of Trustees meeting tonight (Aug 6) and/or the School Safety Task Force Meeting on Aug 8.

First of all – some background:  There is a School Traffic Safety Task Force composed of elected Village of Skokie officials, Village of Skokie staff, District 73.5 staff, and other District 73.5 representatives.  A meeting was held on July 19 to listen to recommendations made by Gewalt-Hamilton Associates (GHA).  The meeting minutes are posted on the Village of Skokie web site in the Skokie News section (right side of the front page in the area with a greenish background) or here:

www.egovlink.com/public_documents300/skokie/published_documents/Manager%20Department/School_Traffic_Safety_Committee_Goals.pdf

Based on GHA’s recommendations, the committee is recommending that a new stop-light be placed at the intersection of Main Street and Central Park Avenue.  In addition, pedestrian traffic will be diverted to this intersection and some other traffic patterns will be modified.

What was discussed at the July 19 meeting was that this information would be presented to the Village of Skokie board of Trustees at their Aug 6 meeting (since the cost of a new stop-light is not insignificant).  The meeting minutes from the July 19 task force meeting indicate that residents will have the opportunity to comment on their proposals at this Aug 6 meeting – however, it does not appear on the agenda.  So, if you are concerned about this issue, I would recommend that you either email the Village TODAY (info@skokie.org) with your concerns or attend the regular Board of Trustees Meeting this evening.

You MAY have one other opportunity to provide input – at the next task force meeting on August 8 (presumably in the evening at Village Hall, however, that has not been publically announced).  I say “may” because at the last task force meeting, most of the recommendations were already approved by the committee before non-committee attendees were allowed the opportunity to speak.  For instance, one of the committee members asked why GHA had not studied Radar Signs/Driver Feedback signs (like Evanston has near two of its schools).  The GHA representative said that he was not well-versed in the advantages/disadvantages of Radar Signs and then started talking about he believed they would not be effective.  Much of what the GHA representative said disagreed with what I had found and had intended to present at the meeting (Radar Signs are indeed very effective and are highly recommended by both citizens and traffic enforcement).  However, I was not given an opportunity to present my results other than to hand around a presentation that I had put together.  So, if I had not put together some kind of documentation, there would have been no opportunity to dispute the un-documented/un-substantiated statements from the “traffic expert” from GHA regarding radar signs.

I am not saying that the overall recommendations of GHA are not the best solutions for improving traffic safety near Middleton School.  All I am trying to say is that there have been very few opportunities for community input, and that the “traffic experts” from GHA have not considered all of the options.  In addition to not studying radar signs, GHA did not mention speed cameras in their report - despite this being mentioned by task force committee members at the July 19 meeting and by several residents at the Skokie Voice public safety forum on June 20.  There may be other good ideas that residents have which could also improve traffic safety near our schools – but which have not been considered.

Disclosure:  If you haven’t already noticed, I do not advocate relying solely on Gewalt-Hamilton Associates as “traffic experts” and simply following their recommendations.  During the Road Diet, many of the results from their models were not replicated during the test, and they made statements which were not justified by and in many cases conflicted with their own data.  So far, there have been at least two specific traffic calming mechanisms that have been proposed by a minimum of two different residents at task force committee meetings – yet they have not been studied by Gewalt-Hamilton Associates.  My research into traffic signals indicates, that it may help in providing a safer opportunity for pedestrians to cross, but it will not reduce traffic speeds and may actually increase traffic speeds - see for instance New York City Dept. of Transportation at:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/faqs/faqs_signals.shtml

While a traffic light at the intersection of Central Park Avenue and Main Street as has been recommended by the task force committee may indeed be the best solution for improving pedestrian safety, I would encourage you to evaluate it yourselves instead of only relying on GHA as a “traffic expert”. 

So, if you are concerned about traffic safety in our community and in particular around our schools, I recommend that you voice your opinion either via email to info@skokie.org or at the Village Board of Trustees meeting tonight, Aug 6, and/or attend the task force meeting on Aug 8.  Otherwise, you may not have another opportunity before the Village of Skokie implements some potentially significant and costly changes to traffic not only near Middleton, but around all of our schools.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Schoolmarm August 09, 2012 at 04:09 AM
You are so right. There are many unsafe areas to be a pedestrian/cyclist in Skokie. The comment that this is not just an issue for Middleton School and its environs has come up before, but I have never seen an answer. I do think that having only District 73.5 people on the Task Force, charging the superintendent with getting the information out, and holding the initial meeting in a place which could be hard for those unfamiliar with McCracken School to find has given the message that the Village of Skokie is really not interested in safety in Skokie as a whole, but is concerned about Middleton School only. That is very unfair!
Katie Gudgel August 09, 2012 at 01:39 PM
Next meeting is scheduled for Wed Oct 3 at 7pm at Village Hall, Conference Room A.
Katie Gudgel August 09, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Regarding what schools the Task Force is looking at: My interpretation is that last night's meeting kind of rounded up analysis and recommendations for Middleton School (recommendations still have to go to the board of trustees and then be acted upon). Then at the next meeting on Oct 3, that they would like to make recommendations for the other two schools in 73.5. At that point the task force is likely to dissolve or be incorporated into the standing Public Safety Commission which meets the 3rd Wed every month at the Police Station. These are my interpretations from last night's meeting - so please don't hold me to it and review the meeting minutes when they come out. Regarding which schools they are looking at - one of the issues is that in order to have productive discussions, the task force/committee/commission really has to have some direct interaction/input from the school district, since there are other changes to be made that are not infrastructure based (like teaching parents where to safely drop their kids off, where the best place is for crossing guards, etc). Looking back, if this task force had just one school official and one parent from each district the group would have ballooned to a size that couldn't have reasonably been productive. So, I can understand why this task force was just 73.5. I really hope that once it gets folded into the public safety com, that a focus on pedestrian safety remains. Maybe a specific focus like Evanston has?
Katie Gudgel August 09, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Re: Skokie Police officers at cross walks - I got the impression that 73.5 already had a uniformed police officer at Middleton in the mornings (in addition to the crossing guard). On the list of recommendations is: "3. Until the signal is built and implemented, School District will hire back a police officer for both a.m. and p.m. “school rush hours” for pedestrian crossing at Main Street/Central Park Avenue." So, Middleton will have a police officer. I think the issue here is cost to the school district. I believe there is some kind of cost-share between the school district and Skokie. So, if that is true, then it is up to the school district whether to pay for police or resident crossing guards. (But yes, then we need to talk with the Village to see why they pay for police at Village Hall but not at the schools).
rzdw92 August 09, 2012 at 02:47 PM
@Katie "I really hope that once it gets folded into the public safety com, that a focus on pedestrian safety remains. Maybe a specific focus like Evanston has?" It's also my understanding that the school superintendents in Skokie are requesting a more regular on-going traffic safety dialogue with the village. Something where they would get together once or twice a year to talk about current issues rather than forming a task force when something happens.
rzdw92 August 09, 2012 at 08:15 PM
FYI: there is no "administrators' friends list". The email went out to all district parents. If you think you should have gotten it or want to get future emails, contact the superintendent's secretary and they will add you to the email list. At the forum, you're right, the front door was locked as it usually is in the summer. I was posted at the front door that evening letting people in. At the time the forum started, someone else took my place at the front door and I went to the mp room. Why you could not get in I have no idea, but on behalf of the school, my apologies. The school deliberately posted people there to open the doors and you should have been able to get in.
MKP August 11, 2012 at 10:12 PM
I'm sorry you feel this way. I was appointed to the Task Force because I've been publicaly vocal and, I hope, offered constructive solutions about the issue. The other parent doesn't know the administration and doesn't have a child at 73.5. She lives near Elizabeth Meyers and could offer that perspective. Because I live near Middleton, I am able to comment on traffic a all times of day and days of the week. Shortly after school let out, the superintendent sent an email inviting all of 73.5 to brainstorm at McCracken. Sh is trying to include everyone. I arrived at the meeting 20 minutes late, but had no problem getting into the building. I'm sorry you had difficulty. It's so easy to arm-chair quarterback, criticize and point of deficiencies. Please, roll up your sleeves and join in making our community safer for all of its inhabitants. MKP
Schoolmarm August 12, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Thank you for the invitation! It will be very helpful to have the information about the times and places of future meetings that was given above to increase the amount of participation. Hopefully, once everyone knows where and when to go, there will be fewer "arm-chair quarterbacks!"
Katie Gudgel August 12, 2012 at 08:14 PM
The next meeting where these topics will be discussed is the Village Board meeting on Aug 20. According to the meeting minutes from the last Task Force meeting (which are posted on the Skokie.org website), "It is anticipated the Village Board will discuss and decide upon this plan at the August 20 meeting". The specifics of the plan are in the meeting minutes (traffic signal, speed limit reductions, pedestrian crossing at Central Park, etc). The next Task force meeting is scheduled for October 3 at 7pm at Village Hall.
Vicki August 15, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Adam, you are clearly a very bitter and nasty individual. A stop light at that crossing should not in any way impede your day. Maybe you and the other speeders on Main could take a different route. This is a very fast moving road and this is not about just our kids (or as you lovingly refer to them as "special snowflakes") crossing. It is about safety on a RESIDENTIAL STREET. Are you aware that one of the corner houses on Central Park and Main has been driven into TWICE? No, of course you aren't. Are you aware that our "special snowflakes" play baseball on the the field on Main Street? No, why would you be? Maybe because it doesn't effect you since you don't have any kids? Are you aware that our "snowflakes" walk around the field for gym? Once again, the answer would probably be no. All we need is someone else to barrel down Main and end up on the baseball field while our "snowflakes" are playing there. Maybe you will have something to say then. Until then, avoid the street if a light would really make a difference in your miserable life.
Adam Turetzky August 15, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Vicki, Main St. is one of the slowest divided highways in Skokie with a 30 or 35 mph speed limit depending on what section you're at. The only thing that could make that stretch of road any slower is having people get out and push their cars. And that is not a "residential street" other than there are homes near it (which would describe every street). It's a main thoroughfare and business route. Erecting a stoplight 3 blocks from the McCormick traffic signal is a waste of resources in my opinion. That school, that field, have been there for decades without incident. No amount of traffic engineering is going to stop someone from getting high, taking speed and lurching out into traffic and causing an accident which is what allegedly happened in the Carter Vo case.
Katie Gudgel August 15, 2012 at 08:00 PM
As I understand it from the traffic experts at the task force meeting 1) Main Street is classified as a collector street. If you slow traffic down too much on it through speed limits, stop signs, traffic lights, etc, then you will likely shift the traffic to the neighboring truly residential streets. Studies say they won't go all the way up to Dempster or Oakton, instead they will "speed" on Lee or Madison. 2) The speed limit in the area of McCracken is normally 30. The actual MEASURED AVERAGE speeds were 29 or 30. Standard traffic design says that if 85% of traffic is going less than 5mph over the speed limit, you have designed your road correctly for the speed limit you posted. In this case the MEASURED 85% traffic is below 35 (don't have the number off the top of my head). 3) HOWEVER, PEOPLE DO SPEED THROUGH THE SCHOOL ZONES. So, that is one area that needs to be addressed.
Katie Gudgel August 15, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Personal observation based on actually attending the task force meetings and listening to the experts: I can see why a traffic signal at the intersection of Central Park and Main makes sense not only for safe crossing for the kids (school and park), but also for safe passage of emergency vehicles (there is a nearby fire-station) and soon there will be another school there too. However, I do not personally believe that lowering the speed limit will help at all. The traffic experts and police officers said that people go the speed they are comfortable with, independent of posted speed limit. In order to slow the traffic down you need either more enforcement, or better traffic design. (Note: the divided road, on-street parking, landscaped median, etc. all actually HELP to slow traffic down.)
Vicki August 15, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Adam, once again you are saying without incident......that is not true. I will mention to you again that the home across the street from the field has been hit twice that I am aware of. There are plenty of accidents on Main St all the time and it has nothing to do with the unfortunate death of Carter Vo. There was a petition signed before Carter was killed and was ignored by the Village. Several months later Carter was killed. It is a residential street and is lined by homes not factories or businesses like Dempster and Oakton. It should not be a major route for trucks since it is RESIDENTIAL. The street light that we have requested is not 3 blocks away from another street light and if you look at Dempster there are 2 street lights between McCormick and Crawford. Dempster is a major route Maine is not. Main is not a 4 lane road, Dempster is. So that said Adam, this "overprotective" mother is going to go take care of her "special snowflakes" and continue to make sure that they are safe around their school when I am not there to be "overprotective". Maybe you should tell the Vo family how much this traffic change will effect YOUR life since they have not been impacted by the traffic on Main.
Adam Turetzky August 15, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Vicki, clearly someone should tear down that house. It's a traffic hazard. They'll put in the traffic light and rear end collisions will double. Side street (as well as alley) traffic will increase as people cut through to get around the light. And I guess all of the commercial properties which line both sides of Main St. from Trumbull East to McCormick are just my imagination ( I won't even mention what's going on 1 block South at Madison and Kimball).
Vicki August 15, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Thank you Katie for the informative and intelligent discussion of the issue. We are presented with a problem and dealing with it in a mature and educated manner is the correct way to handle it. Needless name calling and clearly uninformed comments are certainly not the way to manage the situation.
Adam Turetzky August 15, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Vicki said: "Adam, you are clearly a very bitter and nasty individual" Vicki said: "in your miserable life." Then Vicki said: "Needless name calling certainly not the way to manage the situation" Tsk, tsk, tsk. Someone needs to take their own medicine. (✌゚∀゚)☞
Vicki August 16, 2012 at 12:20 AM
No response needed for a clearly uninformed individual. Thanks Adam. I think I will just walk away and let you continue your needless banter.
rzdw92 August 16, 2012 at 03:17 AM
listen up peoples! all the childish bickering is distracting from the most important thing: as Katie noted below, the following is posted on the skokie.org website: "Citizens are invited to comment on the above plan via e-mail at info@skokie.org or in person at the Village Board Meeting of August 20, 8 p.m. at Skokie Village Hall. It is anticipated the Village Board will discuss and decide upon this plan at the August 20 meeting." If you support the task force's recommendation then make your voice heard. if you oppose it, stfu...lol! no really, whatever your viewpoint, tell the village. spouting off on patch, however satisfying, does not matter.
Katie Gudgel August 16, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I agree with rzdw92, that whether you support the task force recommendations or not (or only some of them), please make your voices heard where it matters and can make a difference. Either show up at the Village Board meeting on Aug 20 at 8pm at Village Hall or write to info@skokie.org and voice your opinion.
skokieperson August 19, 2012 at 03:29 PM
The school district administration has a well-known reputation for ignoring and stonewalling the community at large. Just ask the McCracken neighborhood. A petition with many names was submitted over a YEAR ago complaining about parking and traffic caused by McCracken and the impact on a residential neighborhood. It was ignored. How would you like to be a senior citizen returning home with packages and not finding parking within three blocks of your home? East Prairie Road is a residential neighborhood and is not zoned for an entertainment and convention center. No notices are ever sent to the community at large. It should be mentioned that some teachers and parents are among the worst traffic offenders. If you don't think so, you should watch them when they have completed work or picked up someone. Don't get in their way
Katie Gudgel August 19, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Skokieperson - I would encourage you to attend the last Task Force meeting on Oct 3. There was a preliminary discussion about traffic patterns and about parking at McCracken at the last meeting, but there was not enough factual/statistical information about the current conditions to make any decisions/recommendations. However, that is on the "agenda" (as far as I understand) for the next task force meeting.
p-pod August 21, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I think a lot of people commenting on this issue are losing sight of the fact that most of us involved with this are trying to make POSITIVE changes for the community and not trying to upset people, inconvenience people or waste community resources. There is certainly more at play here than district 73.5. This issue effects all our schools as well as most public areas where anyone walks, runs, bikes, etc... but we need to start somewhere and hopefully it will continue throughout all of Skokie. Overall more needs to be done throughout the entire village to make it a more pedestrian friendly community. Parking, speed limits, crosswalks, police enforcement, street conditions, public awareness and community involvement are all part of this issue. So if you have more to add to this discussion start showing up to all of these public forums that have had adequate notice in the community and be heard as is your right but arguing on this blog accomplishes so much less.
Vicki August 21, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Not many showed up this evening but many have something to say. Thank you to those who voiced their (appropriate) opinion. The Village passed the vote this evening!!!!!!!!!
Adam Turetzky August 21, 2012 at 12:58 PM
There's an "appropriate" opinion Vicki? LOL That's rich. "Overall more needs to be done throughout the entire village to make it a more pedestrian friendly community. " Why? No we don't.
Vicki August 21, 2012 at 02:29 PM
Adam always has something to say. Let's just keep Skokie going down the tubes and do absolutely nothing, that really seems to be working isn't it?
Adam Turetzky August 21, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Who says Skokie is going down the tubes? I'm pretty sure Skokie has a handle on auto and pedestrian traffic flows over the last 100 years. Now attracting businesses to the village to reignite it's retail and industrial heyday without offering a 10-20 year TIF. That it has a problem with (See Dempster street, Lockwood East to McCormick). New traffic lights or stop signs on already sleepy thoroughfares is not going to do anything to fix that. And that is what they should be focusing on instead of having nonsense like this brought to them. Because if the retail or industrial tax base doesn't improve they will eventually have to give in and raise property taxes to cover the rising costs of everything. Including the already issued bonds and fallout from the Wall Street mortgage fraud which led to a ridiculous doubling of property values that have now fallen backwards 10 years. And don't expect that to change anytime soon unless wages go up. We've hit a breaking point of what US consumers can afford and 9% of them aren't even working or in the game.
Vicki August 21, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Walking away from all of this with my "snowflakes" who will now be safer by their schools. Thank you task force parents and community residents, Kate Donagan, Village trustees, and especially Melina who has worked so diligently to make this happen!
nhu vo August 28, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Love the speed signals on Main st. by Middelton school. I was wondering if you know why there are no stop signs on St Louis from Dempster to Main st.? Thank you Katie for all your effort. The Vo family.
Katie Gudgel October 01, 2012 at 11:54 AM
An Ordinance to reduce the speed limit on Main from McCormick to Lincoln from 30mph to 25mph is on tonight's Village Board meeting agenda. Also, on the agenda is an ordinance to install a stop-light at Main and Central Park Ave. If approved these ordinances will be "law", so your last chance for input would be today and at tonight's meeting.

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