A Carpentersville study that examines the feasibility of placing speed tables near the four schools that lost their crossing guards this school year, concludes the devices are not the answer to helping children safely cross the street in school zones.
Village trustees have agreed instead to post a pair of signs on Miller Road and Providence Drive near Liberty Elementary School -- the busiest of the four -- that read "State law, yield for pedestrians in crosswalk."
Community Unit District 300 ran its own evaluation of where the signs were most needed and determined the intersection near Liberty had the most kids and the heaviest traffic, said Gary Chester, the district's safety officer.
The sign will serve as a reminder to motorists that, per state law, they need to stop when pedestrians are moving through the crosswalk.
Trustee Brad McFeggan wanted to go a step further and install stop signs at that intersection, but there wasn't enough support to make it happen.
"I think a lot of drivers still aren't in tune with that new law," said McFeggan, who spent a couple of mornings observing traffic there himself and has received emails from residents who say some motorists don't stop. "I really feel a stop sign is warranted there."
The speed table study was prompted by the village board's decision earlier this spring to cut five crossing guards at four schools, due to a budget shortfall. The village had financed the crossing guards for at least 25 years, but decided to eliminate them, hoping authorities from District 300 and Barrington School District 220, which had one crossing guard, would step in.
But school officials faced their own financial challenges and said they could not foot the $50,000 annual bill.
After the vote, Carpentersville Police Chief Dave Neumann said he could ask police officers to patrol the streets near the schools during drop-off and pickup times, but only if they weren't doing anything else. Trustees then started considering speed bumps.
The study was conducted by Carpentersville engineer Scott Marquardt, fire chief John Schuldt, Neumann and public works director Bob Cole.
It determined that speed tables:
• Are not as effective in school crossing zones as they would be elsewhere. The elongated speed bumps -- commonly used in Chicago -- slow traffic down but they "can actually cause a mid-block increase in traveled speeds some distance from the tables themselves, as motorists attempt to make up lost time," the study said.
• Do not force vehicles to come to a complete stop, "as would be desirable at a school pedestrian crossing zone when children are present."
• Increase emergency response times between 3 and 30 seconds. They also can cause damage to emergency vehicles that pass over them at high speeds.
• Would be difficult to plow in the winter. Asphalt tables would need signs telling the snow plower where they are on the roads so he could lift his blade.
• Result in higher maintenance costs because markings need to be painted frequently. Speed tables range in price from $3,000 to $8,000 each and take between 16 and 20 hours to install.
At this point, District 300 is "following the lead of the village of trying to manage it by signage and vehicle traffic control," Chester said.
Liberty Assistant Principal Rebecca Jurs says a stop sign at the intersection would cause traffic jams and force traffic to back up onto nearby Huntley Road. She questions the impact of the yield signs.
"The concern that I have is that there is a slight incline in the street," Jurs said. "A driver, even if they were doing the speed limit, might not be able to see the child unless they were very close to the child."
While the yield sign is a start to resolving the issue, it will never be a substitute for the crossing guards, said Tom Yehl, whose third-grade daughter attends Liberty. His back yard butts up to Miller Road and Providence Drive and there have been times when he has stopped cars to let children cross. He has also witnessed a few close calls.
"For years the crossing guard was there ... and he took care of the kids," Yehl said. "He knew them by name, it was exceptional and it's a shame that the almighty dollar got rid of them."