Riverside resident Randy Brockway is nothing if not persistent. When it comes to the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists at the corner of First and Forest avenues, he has proven to be particularly so.
Since early 2011, Brockway has made getting a pedestrian overpass/underpass a personal crusade. Last spring he enlisted the help of other Riverside and Brookfield residents and formed a citizen committee that has lobbied local municipal and school officials (both elected and appointed), local police, state representatives, officials at Brookfield Zoo and staffers at the Illinois Department of Transportation to get them behind his vision.
He succeeded in convincing Riverside to serve as the sponsor for a grant application asking for millions to make that vision a reality. And while the first tilt at the windmill didn’t succeed, that hasn’t dampened Brockway’s spirit, or that of the members of the citizens committee he leads.
As they continue to plan an extension of the Salt Creek Bike Trail to eventually connect it to the First/Forest intersection (of course, including that overpass/underpass feature), the group already scored a victory, though it’s not necessarily getting all the credit.
After relentless pressure from Brockway in late 2010 and early 2011 about doing something about the intersection, Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel created the RBHS Traffic and Safety Committee, which includes police and schools officials as well as members from Brockway’s group.
The committee focused on ways of reducing congestion that creates unsafe conditions near Riverside-Brookfield High School and started by tightening up parking restrictions and getting the intersection re-striped.
Last week, however, the committee announced a newer plan to prohibit parking on Ridgewood Road in front of the school at dropoff and pick-up times. That was supposed to be the big news until at a meeting of the committee last week, IDOT officials announced they were moving ahead with signal improvements that have been long called for, along with a verbal commitment to bring more improvements by 2015.
While that falls far short of Brockway’s goal of an overpass/underpass at the intersection, it represents good and remarkably fast progress on a safety issue that, until Brockway starting really pushing it, hovered comfortably in the background. It was a nuisance everyone simply dealt with.
It may have taken a government-sponsored committee and the involvement of a couple of state legislators to get the complete attention of IDOT, but it would not have happened without the consistent prodding of Brockway and the citizens committee to get moving on the issue a year ago.
The lane and signal changes being proposed by IDOT may very well satisfy safety concerns held by village and school officials. However, if they think that the changes will satisfy Brockway and his group, they’d be mistaken.
Be ready for a continued campaign for an underpass/overpass at the intersection (which IDOT already proposed in 1997), and be ready to eventually succumb to the pressure, because if Brockway has proven anything, it’s that once he’s focused in on an issue, it’s going to be your issue, too, until it’s resolved definitively one way or the other.