CRYSTAL LAKE – At least 10 residents pleaded with city officials Tuesday to evaluate alternatives to a proposed 200-foot-long median in front of their homes and businesses.
With repairs on East Crystal Lake Avenue ongoing since April, the city wants to install the median to prevent drivers from making a left turn onto East Street from East Crystal Lake Avenue and to stop cars from queuing up or stopping on the railroad tracks.
After more than two hours of discussion at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council approved temporary barriers to stop drivers from making the left turn while city staff reaches out to the Illinois Department of Transportation to see whether other options are feasible.
The city said it is looking to mitigate liability and ensure driver safety when crossing the railroad tracks.
Without access to the left turn, residents said, more traffic will go to neighboring side streets, such as Poplar, Morgan and Erick streets, as drivers divert around the median.
“[A median would] cut off traffic to a street I’ve been traveling on for 50 years,” Poplar Street resident Dale Nelson said. “... [The city] is operating under the assumption that we need to be protected from ourselves because we’re not smart enough to navigate a relatively simple traffic pattern.”
A portion of the funds for the construction project – $877,000 – would be at risk if the city doesn’t install the median, officials said. The state requires a solution, such as a barrier median, for intersections within 200 feet of a railroad crossing. The intersection has only 50 feet.
Furthermore, a safety analysis of a four-block area called it a “high crash location,” with 23 reported crashes there from the 2003 to 2006.
Mayor Aaron Shepley pointed to the 1995 train-school bus crash in Fox River Grove that killed seven children.
“The fact of the matter is that was a worst-nightmare scenario,” Shepley said Wednesday. “My feeling is that if we don’t put in the barrier median or physically prevent people from turning left there, we could be unintentionally create the same scenario.”
If drivers are stuck on the tracks with a train approaching, residents argued, a median would prevent their escape. But city staff countered that the 6-inch-tall median can be driven on and over.
Neighbors also raised concerns that a median would cut off access to emergency vehicles and increase emergency response time. But Police Chief Dave Linder told the council he didn’t think it would be a problem to get around the barrier or over it.
In August, the city put up a no-left-turn sign at the intersection, but that doesn’t appear to be working, city officials said. In the two months since the sign was erected, Crystal Lake police have issued 111 citations and warnings for drivers making left turns.
James Tomasello, who lives in the neighborhood, collected 167 signatures from residents and business owners who oppose the median.