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The safest route to school

Marini shares results of a Safe Route to School traffic study

SPRING VALLEY — The Spring Valley City Council is moving forward with the decision to submit a new application for a Safe Routes to School grant to fund construction of a pedestrian crossing and traffic light at the intersection of Route 6 and Strong Avenue.

Spring Valley Mayor Walt Marini confirmed Thursday the council will vote to submit the application to Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) at the next council meeting.

For the last several months, the Spring Valley Elementary School Board has voiced concerns about placing the crossing at Strong Avenue. The school board felt the intersection was not the safest route for students because the area was traffic heavy, the speed of traffic at that portion of Route 6 was a concern and the future grocery store being built near the intersection would add further congestion.

The school board has stood behind its recommendation of placing a pedestrian crossing for students at either the Richards Street or Taylor Street intersections over Route 6.

A brief background of the topic

In talking about the history of the safe routes to school disagreement, Marini on Thursday explained the city was awarded a $100,000 grant in 2010 and worked with McClure Engineering Associates in planning out the first safe routes to school specifications.

In 2013, the city submitted the plans to IDOT for a mid-block crossing between Taylor Street and Richards Street, which they rejected and stated signals must be placed at a street intersection.

The city then worked with Chamlin & Associates to determine a new placement for the traffic signals. Based upon the analysis of the street/sidewalk system between Route 6 and John F. Kennedy School, the firm recommended signals be placed at Strong Avenue.

The city’s Safe Routes to School traffic study

Marini shared with the Bureau County Republican the traffic study was just completed in May by James Clinard, an engineer at Chamlin & Associates.

The study covers an array of topics concerning the placement of the traffic lights — calculations of peak hour traffic; projections with the extra Lincoln School traffic next year and the future Sullivan’s Grocery Store; methodology; observation data; field notes; and much more.

The study shows a crossing at Route 6 and Strong Avenue would include sidewalks along the west side of Strong Avenue to the intersection with Janis Avenue, then cross Strong Avenue to the John F. Kennedy School.

The school district’s route to school is also included in the plan and includes crossing Route 6 at Taylor Street. From Taylor Street students would walk on the north side of Route 6 to Richards Street and proceed north on Richards Street to the school.

The study states the Strong Avenue route would have additional justification for placement of traffic signals; would cross nearly the same volume of traffic, but traffic would be traveling at slower speeds; would provide slightly wider sidewalks; would provide a wider buffer to separate students from the traffic; would provide more room for snow storage; would provide a more direct route to school for more students; and would have fewer and narrower points of interaction between students and traffic.

Why is the city proceeding without school board approval?

On Thursday, Marini said the school board has written a letter to the city stating its disagreement with the Strong Avenue intersection and the city’s decision to move forward with the grant application.

Marini said since the school board was given reasons of why its recommendations for the crossings at Richards Street and Taylor Street would not be best, they have not come back and shared a new plan to the council, therefore the council will move forward.

Marini said the debate between the boards has allowed the city to complete the safe routes to school traffic study, which has gathered more information to solidify the Strong Avenue decision.

“This decision has been determined to be the safest route for the children,” Marini said. “This was a Safe Routes to School traffic study the city had completed and safety is the number one priority in this situation.”

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