Editorial: Traffic fix is temporary; keep safety permanent
In justifying their decision to open a residential street long blocked to through traffic by a gate, Grayslake village officials cited doing what's best for the "broader community." We understand the logic -- for now.
Governments are faced with having to make these kinds of decisions -- as unpopular as they may be to someone or some group -- all the time. In this case, Grayslake is awash in road construction projects that have worsened traffic congestion in the downtown area. Opening the Prairieview Avenue gate for the first time since 1998 is an effort to provide some relief for traffic to get around construction zones.
But this also must be a temporary fix, part of a community compromise.
The gate was put in place to limit access to Prairieview Avenue to residents because of a history of speeding and safety issues on a stretch of road with no sidewalks. The road hasn't changed, so once congestion problems ease, the gate must again swing closed to block cut-through traffic.
The Prairieview Avenue gate was installed in the late 1980s, eliminating the possibility the road could be used for through traffic. It opened for a short time in 1998 because of two area construction projects, but it closed again after parent concerns about the safety of their children.
Village officials passed a local law in 2001 requiring the road be closed to through traffic. That decision was reversed recently because of several nearby road construction projects, including resurfacing Center Street and the massive Washington Street railroad underpass work expected to be completed in late 2016.
The village board has directed Grayslake police to monitor traffic on Prairieview Avenue and nearby streets and add enforcement details to ensure the neighborhood streets are safe. That's a necessary step. Officials will also evaluate data on traffic volumes and vehicle speeds.
Another village board vote will be needed to close the gate. However, residents say there's nothing in writing committing the village to do that, and no date has been set to vote on the matter. Understandably, neighbors are worried the street will return to the days when it was cut-through.
"When I bought the house, the gate was closed," John Basten, who lives on nearby Waterford Drive, told the Daily Herald's Bob Susnjara. "It (the open gate) does change the neighborhood with increased traffic."
At least one trustee, Shawn Vogel, said he'd want to see results of the traffic study before a decision is made.
That's understandable, but the board should remember that the uncertainty is unfair to residents in the neighborhood. While the village should carefully review the data it collects to determine if changes are needed, it must reassure residents as soon as possible, that the safety they've come to expect will be restored.
One solution is to improve Prairieview to alleviate the safety concerns. Another is that as road construction projects end and the travel crisis eases, the gate on Praireview Avenue must close again to through traffic.