Turn lane, not stop light, seen as improving Lake Zurich High access
A turn lane to improve vehicle access to Lake Zurich High School from Church Street is under consideration now that a traffic engineering consultant has found a stop light would not be much of a solution.
Church Street, which becomes Midlothian Road, has one lane in each direction south from Main Street and past Lake Zurich High School on the village's north end. The stretch of road past the school has a longtime reputation for heavy backups, particularly during the morning rush hour heading north, when classes are in session.
While talk about a stop light at the entrance dates to 2003, when the village began pursuit of a federal grant for the long-stalled project, District 95 school board President Doug Goldberg said officials agree the solution to improving access and potentially alleviating the Church Street congestion now lies elsewhere after hearing from the traffic engineering consultant.
Representatives from Vernon Hills-based Gewalt Hamilton Associates Inc. told the school board that engineers collected traffic data, such as the number of vehicles passing through the area, and ran computer models as if a stop light already exists at the Church Street entrance to the high school. The engineers found the light would be of little benefit.
"The bottom line is we want to improve traffic flow to the high school and safety," Goldberg said. "It's about safety and traffic flow."
Gewalt Hamilton projects a stop light at the high school could cost as much as $2 million.
Instead of a traffic signal, the engineers propose construction of a right-turn lane on northbound Church Street approaching the high school. Another option is a left-turn lane on southbound Church Street and the right-turn on the northbound side.
However, concerns arose among the elected officials about whether the northbound right-turn lane could have a negative effect on traffic to May Whitney Elementary School on Church Street, just south of the high school. Goldberg said officials raised the question because the right-turn lane would begin near May Whitney.
Gewalt Hamilton will use data already collected to run additional computer models regarding the right-turn lane's potential effect on May Whitney, and is to report back to the school board April 14.
"Bottom line was the right-turn lane helped just as much as the stop light did," Goldberg said. "There was no perceptible improvement beyond the right-turn lane. In other words, the stop light didn't help any more than just improving the right-turn situation."
Although a $480,000 federal grant was authorized in 2005 for a traffic signal at Lake Zurich High's driveway on Church Street, no work has occurred.
In 2010, the state approved a traffic light at the entrance, with the idea of installation in 2013. The state and village of Lake Zurich were expected to contribute money to assist District 95 in paying for the project that most recently was estimated at $1.2 million, well below the Gewalt Hamilton engineering firm's $2 million estimate.
District 95's assistant superintendent of business and operations, Vicky Cullinan, said the $1.2 million estimate does not include improvements that would be necessary on school property, such as connecting sidewalks, driveway improvements and moving an electronic sign that fronts Church Street.
An exact cost has yet to be established for the right-turn lane, but Goldberg said it would be significantly less than $2 million.