What’s the safest route to school?

SVE and SV Council have differing opinions

Published: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 2:43 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 2:46 p.m. CDT

SPRING VALLEY — The Spring Valley Elementary School Board and Spring Valley City Council are still at a disagreement on where a new traffic signal light and pedestrian crossing should be placed in the downtown area.

While the city would like the Safe Routes to School Grant to be applied at the intersection of Dakota and Strong streets, the school board has concerns about the intersection being too traffic heavy with the future supermarket and other businesses near the location.

The board believes a safer location for the traffic signal would be at the intersection of Dakota and Richards streets or Dakota and Taylor streets. Currently, the school tries to route students to cross at Richards Street.

With the grant, the city would receive funding from Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) for the construction of sidewalks from the school to the intersection, a traffic light and the city would provide a crossing guard for the students.

Representatives from the school board, the city council and IDOT recently met to discuss the conflicting issues on the matter.

On Wednesday, Superintendent Jim Hermes and Spring Valley Elementary School Board President Ray Nolasco gave an overview of what was discussed.

The biggest surprise they learned was IDOT didn’t need school board approval to continue with the project.

Nolasco said, however, while it doesn’t require school support, IDOT has always had it in the program and prefers the board’s support. The lack of school board support on the application could potentially affect funding on the project.

It was discovered IDOT has only taken a pedestrian count in the area and has not yet completed a traffic study.

“The one question I would have is, maybe a traffic study would show one way or another where (the light) should go because one has not been done,” Nolasco said.

While some board members were concerned about completing a traffic study before the new Sullivan’s Foods grocery store is built and the Lincoln School students were moved over to the JFK location, board member Jack Kusek confirmed there were ways to complete a traffic study by factoring in the extra traffic.

“Without the traffic study, they’re kind of asking us to vote on something that we don’t really have facts on,” he said. “It’s kind of a waste of time …Traffic signals should be placed based on a study.”

Kusek expressed concerns about the traffic light at Strong and Dakota streets possibly creating congestion in the area, more so than helping the flow of traffic.

“It’s going to help it or hurt it,” Nolasco added.

Hermes said in the last couple of weeks, with the amount of snow and residents not shoveling their sidewalks, students have been forced to walk on the street.

“I just have a tough time imagining Strong when we have a supermarket and businesses right there and students walking down the street with snow,” he said. “It’s hard to put students safety out there without doing a study.”

IDOT will be accepting questions from the board on the matter. The board planned to gather questions to submit and to schedule another special meeting with IDOT.

The board agreed no one has quite the perfect solution in the matter, but they know what’s most important for students.

“I think it’s a piece of information that should be made part of the puzzle before anybody decides,” Nolasco said.

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