Publicity regarding one Trustee’s quest to eliminate uncontrolled intersections in Oak Lawn could result in a traffic engineering firm being hired to provide a detailed traffic control study.
The Daily Southtown, the Oak Lawn Leaf, Oak Lawn Reporter, the Chicago Tribune and WBBM News Radio 780 have reported that longtime Trustee Robert Streit is championing the idea of the village installing at least one right of way sign at every uncontrolled intersection.
When drivers approach intersections without traffic lights or signs that specify who has the right-of-way they often assume that the other person has a stop or yield sign. When an intersection doesn’t have a sign, tragedy can strike.
On Memorial Day, Jackie Chavez Ruiz, a resident of Streit’s district, was driving at such an intersection when another vehicle upended her vehicle resulting in her death. She left behind a husband and four young children. Streit said that a stop sign or yield sign may have saved her life.
Local residents, working with Streit, successfully petitioned to have a stop sign installed at that intersection but it began a process where Streit started examining other intersections without any signs. “I think it would be a good idea on the village’s part to adopt a plan that would provide for signs,” he said. “There should be at least a yield sign or stop sign at every intersection. Not for all directions, but at least for one direction in the name of public safety.”
Oak Lawn’s Village Manager Larry Deetjen and its Police Chief, Michael Murray, disagree. Murray wrote to Streit recently expressing his disagreement, “Signage does not always equate to obedience.”
“If you put a stop sign at every intersection,” Murray said, “people will have a tendency to speed up to make up time from stopping at so many stop signs, so you’re getting an unforeseen consequence based on placing a sign.”
Streit said that a stop sign is not needed at every intersection but there should be some sign, such as a yield sign.
Another police officer, Sgt. James Pacetti, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune article and cited a study to back up his claim that people ignore stop signs. The study was conducted by a University of Kentucky professor in 2005 and involved rural areas.
The study found that stop-controlled rural intersections with very low volumes of high-speed traffic were no safer than uncontrolled intersections. Streit said that a study about rural intersections would not seem to be applicable to Oak Lawn since the village is not a rural area and has thousands of drivers on a daily basis.
Now the traffic control dispute has gained the interest of an expert in the field who has done studies for many other municipalities and worked recently with Oak Lawn High School on traffic flow, and Advocate Christ Hospital with its recent expansion.
The firm, Kenig, Lindren, O’Hara, Aboona, Inc has also prepared Village-wide traffic control studies for many communities such as Mount Prospect, Downers Grove, Darien, Naperville, La Grange Park, Morton Grove, Deer Park, and Oak Park.
One of its principals, Eric Russell, wrote an email to Streit recently offering his expertise on any study that may take place. Streit said he forwarded the email to Village Manager Larry Deetjen for discussion purposes.
Streit said that he would welcome an independent study on the issues of traffic control and traffic flow. “Residents are concerned about traffic control at intersections and any expertise that can be brought into the conversation would benefit Oak Lawn residents,” said Streit.
Russell said that neighborhood traffic control must be viewed as a system, and there is federal criteria on where stop controls are justified. The goal is to keep traffic moving in the neighborhood, but to assign the right-of-way at most intersections and to try to calm traffic speeds where it is possible.
Russell in an email to Streit said that his firm, Kenig, Lindgren, O’Hara, Aboona, Inc, would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues with village officials. Streit said he hopes the administration will consider the idea.