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updated: 3/25/2013 5:30 AM

Readers fix traffic hazards, swap distracted driving tales

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  • It may look like nothing's happening, but road work in the vicinity of Army Trail Road and Route 53 is ongoing and will finish this year, IDOT says.

      It may look like nothing's happening, but road work in the vicinity of Army Trail Road and Route 53 is ongoing and will finish this year, IDOT says.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer


Ask and you shall be answered.

At least when it comes to questions about congestion on Army Trail Road, faulty signals on Route 83 and a U-turn conundrum submitted by readers.

I have consulted the traffic oracles and have your answers -- plus a wealth of opinions on distracted driving and knives on planes.

Let's start with school bus driver Mike Nilson, who I'm proud to say uncovered a faulty traffic sensor that IDOT has promised to fix.

Nilson noticed "the left-turn sensor in the southbound lanes at Grove Avenue and Route 83 in Bensenville is placed too far forward and there is only one. The southbound lanes used to have a red-light camera so people are very careful about how close to the line they come. So what happens is that you sit at the intersection without getting a left-turn arrow," he explained.

"More often than not, the car at the head of the line finally just goes through the red arrow which is very dangerous."

I contacted IDOT with Nilson's question and a crew checked out the location. They "observed that if the first left-turning vehicle in the southbound Route 83 to eastbound Grove Avenue left-turn lane was not positioned at or near the stop bar, the left-turn movement could be skipped and no left-turn arrow displayed," spokesman Mike Claffey said.

As a result, IDOT "will install additional vehicle sensors in advance of the stop bar to improve vehicle detection coverage. This work will be scheduled as soon as weather and contractor workload permits. In the interim, we have modified signal programming to temporarily have the left-turn arrow displayed during each signal cycle to assure the left-turned movement is not skipped," Claffey said.

Nilson wins a coveted Stingray button and other tchotchkes from the Auto Show for his detective work.

• I obtained two expert opinions for Frank Leo of Palatine who asked the age-old question, "is it legal to make a U-turn at a no left-turn sign?"

"On the surface I will say 'yes' as long as the sign or the road does not prohibit U-turns and it is safe to do so," Kane County sheriff's Sgt. Craig Campbell answered.

And, Schaumburg's police traffic unit cited the Illinois Vehicle Code in answering "making a U-turn at a no left-turn sign is not illegal."

"Based on the IVC, the limitations on a U-turn is, 'the driver of any vehicle shall not turn such vehicle so as to proceed in the opposite direction unless such movement can be made in safety without interfering with other traffic. No vehicle shall be turned so as to proceed in the opposite direction upon any curve, or upon the approach to or near the crest of a grade, where such vehicle cannot be seen by the driver of any other vehicle approaching from either direction within 500 feet.' Or where signs prohibit," Sgt. John Nebl emailed.

• Finally, Bloomingdale resident Amy Jo Steinbruecker is fed up with the construction or lack thereof around Army Trail Road. "It appears to be nothing but causing backups," she said. "I have been going through this area for more than a year and never see anyone working, just cones, lights restrung and painted lines moved."

IDOT explained the road construction activities at Route 53 and Army Trail Road are part of the total reconstruction of four miles along Rohlwing Road from south of Army Trail Road to south of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway. The proposed improvement includes reconstruction of all side streets including Army Trail Road, Lake Street, Nordic Road and Irving Park Road.

"The contractor has been working daily since the project began in August 2011 and will continue until the current completion date this October," Claffey said. "This type of reconstruction project is typically completed in stages -- essentially completing half the roadway at a time while maintaining an acceptable level of traffic flow.

"It may appear from only commuting on Army Trail Road that this is an inactive road project, but the contractor has been working continuously along the entire four miles of Route 53 even through the winter periods. Weather permitting, roadway construction operations on the north side of Army Trail Road will resume sometime over the next few months and all new pavement will be completed this year."

Got questions? Comments? Drop me an email at

Snakes on planes!

Now that I've got your attention, here's a sampling of letters about the Transportation Security Administration's plans to allow small knives (not snakes) on planes plus certain sports equipment (hockey sticks, two golf clubs) as of April 25.

Longtime flight attendant Chris McSherry of Palatine writes that knives on flights are "lethal" and will slow the screening process as TSA officers take "extra time to mentally process whether a blade meets the restriction requirements."

Instead, the TSA should enforce federal regulations stating "no passenger may board an airplane if carry-on baggage exceeds the baggage allowance" allowed by airlines, McSherry said. "A review of airlines' policies reveals that passengers are restricted to one carry-on bag plus one small personal item (with exceptions for items like assistive or prosthetic devices). The sheer volume of items presented for screening at security checkpoints is what slows the process. If passengers can only carry two items on board, why even allow more than two through security in the first place? Less bags to screen means faster security lines, without sacrificing the safety of commercial aviation."

• Ray Drozek of Wood Dale writes, "the decision to now allow knives in flight begs for reason, especially to those who recall the horrific use of cutting instruments on 9/11 and which ultimately resulted in over 3,000 deaths. The argument that the decision is based on international standards is a moot point since no other country had suffered a like event and, if they had, would likely keep in place precautions to prevent its repetition.

"Should this change in procedure be enacted it is recommended that TSA Administrator John Pistole take action to remove the word 'safety' from the title of the TSA, a now apparent misnomer."

Look Ma, no hands

Surprisingly, the majority of emails about a proposed Illinois law banning drivers from talking on hand-held cellphones were in support.

Previously, I've gotten mixed reactions, so I'm not sure if it's a pendulum shift or not.

Ben Hecht, who is in law enforcement, writes "you probably have an idea how many times I pull over a speeder after observing them going a minimum of 15 miles over the posted limit (which is generally my threshold) and watching them on their cellphones. I believe at 15 miles over the limit, someone knows they are speeding.

"But you may not have an idea of how many times they tell me, and this is frustrating, 'I wasn't paying attention.' You think? Of course you weren't, because you were too involved in your so-important phone conversation about who knows what!"

• Patricia Herrmann of Arlington Heights supports legislation standardizing laws regarding use of hand-held cellphones. And, "I support going further and banning total cellphone usage while driving," she wrote. "Too many deaths/injuries have been caused by distracted driving. Sen. Kirk Dillard seems to think that getting behind the wheel automatically engages the driver's common sense. Does he really believe that? Too many drivers on the road seem to display NO common sense!"

• Lastly, John Larson of West Dundee "can't believe there are intelligent individuals stating, "'Do we need to have a law to recommend common sense?' The answer is -- don't we already have laws for speeding, (drunken driving), and traffic rules? People DO NEED restrictions because there are a number of people who can't handle the serious task of driving without rules. Should we do away with all laws because we should expect people to have common sense?" Larson asked. "I hope that the politicians involved in nonsupport of this issue will find time to attend funeral services for people who died because of their stands on 'legislation' and 'common sense.'"

You should know

Happy Birthday O'Hare. It's been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy dedicated the giant airport on March 23, 1963. At that time, about 16 million passengers traveled through its terminals a year compared to more than 67 million now. The Chicago Department of Aviation celebrates with a weeklong series of events including Military Appreciation Day today and Family Day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday with kids' activities. For more info, go to


Learn all about IDOT's plans to fix traffic jams on the Circle Interchange with a major redesign on April 3.

The open house runs from 4 to 7 p.m. in the UIC neighborhood at the Marriott Chicago, 625 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago. For more info, go to

Gridlock alert

The construction season cometh. So get ready Lake County drivers as IDOT commences widening on I-94 from Route 173 to Wisconsin. Work starts today with lane reductions on Route 173. The interstate will see shoulder closures and narrower lanes in daytime and some closures overnight. To learn more, go to

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