In light of the upcoming budget discussions, I urge the Riverside village board to work towards a safer crossing for pedestrians at First Avenue and Ridgewood Road. Significant and affordable improvements can be accomplished in the near term by adding a second crossing guard during the before and after school hours. This can be implemented for less than $75 a school day, which is approximately $13,000 a year.
The crossing is dangerous. I urge you to witness firsthand the crossing between 7:30 and 8 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m. on schooldays. When weather is inclement, roads are slick and visibility reduced, the crossing becomes treacherous. Please take the time to see the safety of our resident students being put at risk each school day.
A grade-separated crossing is the best solution in the long term, and we believe time and future accidents will prove this to be true.
A short crossing interval for pedestrians, turning movements of vehicles at the intersection, a five-lane roadway, heavy stop-and-go traffic and impatient drivers create the dangerous situation. Students, over 550 daily including Hauser middle school students, are put at risk.
Students no longer look both ways and listen before crossing on foot or bike. But on the contrary, many have buds in their ears, look downward at electronic devices and disregard commonsense safety protocol, including running across the intersection at the tail end of the walk-light interval. And worse yet, students routinely verbally abuse the lone female crossing guard, reducing her effectiveness and ability to promote a safe crossing. This has been reported to us by Police Chief Tom Weitzel.
I have been informed on more than one occasion from Peter Scalera and Chief Weitzel that there is no money in the budget for a second crossing guard. Your leadership is needed to find a way to fund this. A partnership with the school districts may be in order, though the responsibility of pedestrians crossing First Avenue falls squarely on the village as per IDOT’s communications. We found this out earlier in the year when we learned that the village is responsible for maintaining the crosswalk paint markings, even though it is a state route.
We have suggested that stepped-up enforcement of traffic violators on First Avenue could yield the expense to fund a second crossing guard. The enforcement near the noon hour, when the speed of vehicles exceeds 50 mph in a posted 35mph zone, could fund the $13,000 position in no time. Collected fines go into the general fund we have been told.
A second crossing guard can go a long way to improve pedestrian and bike safety at this intersection. It is affordable and the sensible thing to do.
Public safety is a critical element of the Board of Trustees’ responsibility to the residents of Riverside. I urge that President Gorman press his fellow trustees, Peter Scalera, Chief Weitzel and the two school districts to fund this critical safety measure.