ELMHURST – The city of Elmhurst continues to discuss an issue brought forward by Glade Avenue residents in August 2017: cut-through traffic from North Avenue.
The north end of the 200 block of Glade Avenue connects to North Avenue, unlike immediately nearby Bonnie Brae and Glenview avenues, and sometimes drivers will use Glade Avenue as a shortcut when North Avenue gets backed up with traffic, residents and city officials have agreed. The block also does not have sidewalks, which concerns some residents.
The city decided in fall 2017, after hearing from residents and conducting a traffic study, to extend the hours during which a right turn from eastbound North Avenue onto southbound Glade Avenue is restricted. Before the change, it was illegal to make the turn from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, and the city extended the restriction to 6 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays.
According to an Oct. 5 memo City Engineer Kent Johnson provided to thePublic Affairs and Safety Committee, city staff members have gathered data showing the new restrictions are working to reduce traffic. However, residents are still concerned about cut-through traffic, and some want the street closed off from North Avenue to make the area safer for children.
"The issues continue to come up," said Damon Mooren, a resident of the 200 block of Glade Avenue who serves as a spokesman for the residents.
In response to the safety issues he sees, Mooren does not allow his children, aged 5 and 7, to play alone in their front yard because he is concerned for their safety. He said he wants long-term solutions, not just the "short-term patches" the city has provided so far, like the signage change and increased police presence.
"[The signage adjustment] has seen a minimal reduction in the total number of people who continue to cut down our street," Mooren said.
Killian said at the Oct. 9 committee meeting that the absence of sidewalks, which has children walking in the street, also creates a problem, but some longtime residents do not want to pay for the installation.
Aldermen Norman Leader and Bob Dunn, who represent that ward, have requested a neighborhood study encompassing the area from North Avenue to Second Street and from West Avenue to Route 83, and city staff is considering a possible proposal from a traffic firm to conduct traffic counts to determine which cars are cutting through and what actions they are taking in the neighborhood to see the level of cut-through traffic, Killian said.
Leader, Dunn, Killian and Mooren, together with Elmhurst Fire Chief Thomas Freeman and resident Raj Kamruddin, met in September regarding the traffic concerns of the neighborhood.
"It's taken over a year just to get a sit-down meeting with them. .... There's just such a sentiment of lack of proactive solutions and understanding of what the issues are that is just astounding to me in a lot of ways," Mooren said.
The frequency of a neighborhood email chain between residents, Leader and Dunn has reached daily emails, Killian said.
Freeman said in an interview Oct. 9 before the committee meeting that he would be open to having a "bump out," or curb extension, that would further deter North Avenue eastbound drivers from turning right onto Glade Avenue but still allow Fire Department apparatuses into the neighborhood. He would not want the street closed off from North Avenue, however, since the other two nearby streets do not connect to North Avenue and he does not want the neighborhood to be an "island," he said.
"I'm not unempathetic to their plight, but in an emergency, time is of the essence," Freeman said.
City staff is talking with a couple firms to determine what kind of traffic study might be helpful and seeking to get a traffic study approved in "the next week or two," Killian said before the meeting.
City Manager Jim Grabowski may have the authority to approve the study without needing to go through the City Council because the study may be below the threshold cost obligating city staff to go through the council, he said, adding the traffic study might involve determining whether violators of the posted sign are locals.
Killian said at the meeting the study would cost less than $20,000, but "it's not cheap."
Alderwoman Dannee Polomsky, who is on the committee, asked if there was a threshold of how much non-neighborhood traffic is too much and whether the Glade Avenue cut-through traffic is comparable to other streets that connect to North Avenue.
Committee Chairman Scott Levin said people on many blocks raise concerns over drivers speeding and taking shortcuts by going through their neighborhoods.