Rockefeller Ave. parking plan put on hold

No construction until at least 2007

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By BOB UPHUES

Brookfield officials have applied the brakes to a plan that would convert Rockefeller Avenue between Golf Road and Hollywood Avenue into a 108-space parking lot for Riverside-Brookfield High School.

Following a meeting with residents in mid-July, village management decided to re-evaluate the design for the proposed lot to address safety issues and the effect of creating such a lot on traffic in the area.

According to Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, creating the parking lot will not be part of the fall street construction effort in Brookfield, which means construction on the lot wouldn't come any sooner than next spring.

"We'll revisit the issue later, and we've promised neighbors that we'll re-notify them when the issue comes back up for discussion."

Riverside-Brookfield High School Superintendent/Principal Jack Baldermann said that while he hopes the lot is eventually built, the delay shouldn't create a problem for the 2006-07 school year.

"This year we can get by with the parking we have," Baldermann said. "Next year is when we'll really start feeling the crunch."

Baldermann pitched the idea of the Rockefeller Avenue lot in January, as the school district continued working on its plan for expansion and renovation. Baldermann argued that the high school would need additional parking, because a new gymnasium facility was planned to occupy land that is now a faculty parking lot.

Although a parking deck is also part of the school's expansion plan, it needs approval by the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Furthermore, constructing a surface lot on Rockefeller Avenue versus building an additional deck on a parking garage would save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It will save taxpayers money down the road," Baldermann said. "We'll do whatever village management and residents feel is best."

In May, the parking lot looked to be on its way toward approval by the village board after a revised plan eliminated a cul-de-sac at Hollywood Avenue, which would have prevented traffic to and from the lot west of Hollywood Avenue. But residents near the proposed lot balked at the removal of the cul-de-sac from that plan, saying that traffic to and from the lot before and after school would pose a safety hazard.

After meeting with residents in July, officials have decided to re-engineer the entire plan and try to come up with a solution that will allow access for emergency vehicles and provide a way for traffic to be rerouted away from Rockefeller Avenue west of Hollywood Avenue during the busiest times of the day--before and after school.

Among the possible solutions might be barriers that can be raised and lowered at specific times of the day. The village's engineering firm, Hancock Engineering, is exploring what technology is available and what the costs might be for such a solution.

Sbiral also mentioned that traffic patterns on Golf Road, which is a border between Brookfield and Riverside, would be re-evaluated. Currently the road is not striped, although it is one of the widest roads in the area. The road also serves as an entry point into Brookfield Zoo.

If anything were to happen with traffic patterns on Golf Road, the Village of Riverside would have to be involved in those discussions, Sbiral said.

Sbiral acknowledged that neighbors were mistrustful of the village's motives for allowing the lot to be built. However, he said that the village would look out for the interests of residents first and that the creation of the lot is not necessarily a done deal.

"There were a lot of bad feelings that we were just helping the high school," Sbiral said. "But we're trying to find a solution that benefits everybody with the least amount of negatives. If we can't find a solution that works for the neighbors, then the status quo will remain."

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