After a trial period, the westbound exit from Northwest Community Hospital onto Kirchoff Road in Arlington Heights will remain open permanently, the village board decided Monday.
The issue has been the subject of much debate for years as residents expressed concerns about safety and increased traffic in the neighborhood and the hospital looked for a way to improve the flow of traffic for cars and emergency vehicles.
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A meeting on the subject in 2012 brought about 200 people to a public meeting and led to a split vote by the board to allow the driveway to reopen temporarily.
But after a nine-month trial period, studies and comments from residents and board members who had previously been split on the issue proved that tempers have calmed on the topic.
Traffic consultants studied the driveway at four different points. According to their analysis, only about 2 percent of cars went north into the neighborhood, contrary to earlier resident concerns, said Nicholas Peppers, lawyer for the hospital.
"The traffic volumes that were anticipated never materialized," Peppers said. "We believe we were able to show that opening that drive has not had a negative impact on the neighborhood."
Other problems with the driveway also failed to materialize.
The hospital hired off-duty police officers to direct traffic when the driveway reopened, but that was discontinued within 30 days because it was unnecessary, Peppers said.
Police confirmed that there have been no traffic accidents since the west driveway reopened in August 2012.
Trustee Thomas Glasgow, who voted against the temporary reopening, said the studies changed his mind.
"The data speaks volumes to me," he said. "I'm old enough to know I can change my mind, and when the data is there I'll make a decision based on that and not on emotion."
Seven residents spoke in favor of keeping the driveway open permanently.
"Since the exit has been reopened I haven't noticed any additional traffic in the morning or at night," said resident Janet Boyle.
One resident asked that the lanes be re-striped to make the change more clear to drivers.
While the board unanimously approved keeping the west exit open permanently, they added the condition that if the village determines that traffic issues exist, the hospital will conduct additional traffic counts and pay for any necessary modifications.
"Our intention is to the best partner we can be to this community," said Steven Scogna, CEO of Northwest Community Hospital.