How West Dundee is addressing downtown traffic concerns
Maureen Himmel and her neighbors have plenty of stories to tell about the close calls they've experienced trying to cross the street in their downtown West Dundee neighborhood.
Drivers regularly speed past their houses, roll through stop signs, maneuver around school buses and fail to pay attention at crosswalks -- not an ideal situation in what is supposed to be the most pedestrian-friendly part of the village, she said.
"It's a very walkable, lovely town," said Himmel, who has lived across from Grafelman Park for 18 years. "But that comes in direct conflict with people who are driving aggressively and not politely through the neighborhood."
Cut-through traffic, speeding and stop sign violations are recurring issues in downtown residential areas, Police Chief Tony Gorski said. Drivers often weave through side streets to avoid stop lights or construction on Main Street and Route 31. Pair that with heightened distracted driving, he said, and it "causes some problems in safety."
To begin addressing those concerns, West Dundee trustees recently agreed to spend $21,222 to complete a traffic study, increase police presence and install digital speed monitoring signs in the area.
Village President Chris Nelson says this is the first step in an "ongoing process" to improve safety conditions and correct dangerous driving behaviors.
"What we're dealing with in our downtown is common for areas that often have pedestrians and vehicles mixing," he said. "Given the fact that we have more activity in the downtown than I think we've had in several decades, we need to make sure we slow (traffic) down."
Police have been targeting the downtown since Trustee Cheryl Anderley expressed concerns in May about speeding along Main Street, Gorski said. As of Oct. 30, officers spent 35 hours doing traffic stops, which resulted in 22 warnings and 14 citations in that area.
Targeted traffic enforcement initiatives helped mitigate violations in the past, Gorski said, but the issues continue resurfacing. At the request of neighbors, the village began looking into "traffic-calming" measures in hopes of finding a longer-term fix.
A $7,527 study conducted by Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers will help determine the extent of the problem by collecting traffic and speed counts, and pedestrian data, throughout the downtown, he said.
Digital speed signs will aim to raise awareness for drivers while also recording and uploading traffic information, Gorski said. The equipment and a one-year subscription to the All Traffic Solutions data storage suite cost $8,695.
West Dundee police also will deploy a detailed traffic enforcement officer in two-hour increments four days a week. The two-month trial will cost $5,000, though fines collected could help offset those expenses, village documents show.
The village is taking steps in the right direction, Himmel said, but this is only the beginning. Already, she has seen more police activity in her neighborhood, and officers were even handing out "pedestrian right of way" fliers. She hopes future efforts include creating a neighborhood advisory group that allows residents to weigh in.
"We feel like the village is taking it seriously, and that's a good thing," Himmel said. "I think it's a very small step toward the bigger picture."