Safety concerns push Elmhurst to study Prairie Path crossing

A plan to install a median to increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists trying to cross York Road from the Illinois Prairie Path appears to have some support from an Elmhurst City Council committee - but a final decision is likely a month or so away.

The public affairs and safety committee considered five options Monday night from Schaumburg-based TranSystems, which studied the busy crossing that brings together about 15,000 vehicles on York and 1,000 path users every day.

City Engineer Kent Johnson said there have been 50 accidents near the crossing since 2006, including 11 involving cars and people on foot or bicycle.

TranSystems provided several possible options for bolstering safety at the site, including the possibility of rerouting the path to either the north or south.

But the company said the best alternative is to build a median "refuge" that would allow path users to cross one lane of York Road traffic at a time and provide a safe place to look for oncoming traffic before proceeding. The work would cost an estimated $45,000.

That idea appeared to have at least some support from committee members, including Alderman Bob Dunn.

"The only one that made sense to me was widening the street and putting an island in the middle," Dunn said.

Thoughts of rerouting the path to the south, he said, "seemed like it would be another, circuitous disaster."

"I think it was the simplest, a good first solution," committee Chairman Scott Levin said. "The other ones were complex and ended up moving pretty far off the current Prairie Path."

One alternative not among the five options presented by TranSystems would involve building an underpass for the path at York Road. That proposal was part of a five-year budget plan first presented in 2013.

Officials said that plan would cost about $3 million with half coming from a grant.

Dunn said he originally opposed the idea of an underpass but is now willing to consider it after seeing the accident data.

"With the potential expiration of that large chunk of grant money, it's timely to look at it again before we lose it," Dunn said.

He admitted an underpass at York would be controversial, partly because of the cost and partly because it would take roughly three years to engineer and build.

For now, though, he said the city should take immediate steps to make the crossing safer, including the installation of flashing yellow lights.

The committee is expected to discuss the crossing at least once more before making a recommendation to the full council on Nov. 13. Any decision also will require approval from the park district and DuPage County, both of which own land near the crossing.

  Elmhurst officials are concerned about safety at the crossing of the Illinois Prairie Path and York Road, where 1,000 path users and 15,000 vehicles come together each day. Mark Black/
  Elmhurst officials seem to be leaning toward plans to build a median at York Road and the Illinois Prairie Path to make it easier for pedestrians to cross safely. Mark Black/
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