Updated Feb. 14, 2012, 1:00 p.m.
Not content to wait until the weather warms up, a crew from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) last week installed new stoplight heads, which include left-turn arrows, atop the posts on Ridgewood Road and Forest Avenue at First Avenue.
And, according to Riverside police, the new turn signals will go live on Wednesday, Feb. 15, after some final tweaking by IDOT.
According to Police Chief Tom Weitzel, representatives from IDOT, Riverside police and Riverside-Brookfield High School were onsite last week to get an idea of how long the light cycles will have to be. And beginning at 9 a.m. on Feb. 15, police along with representatives from IDOT and their electrical contractor will be onsite to perform final testing on the signals.
According to Riverside police, traffic on First Avenue may have to be shut down periodically while that testing is done.
“Once programmed, the signals will be fully operational at some time on [Feb. 15],” wrote Sgt. Bill Gutschick in an email to Weitzel on Friday.
IDOT has already made some changes to the timing of the lights, said Gutschick to help with traffic flow through the intersection.
The left-turn arrows should allow more vehicles to clear Forest Avenue and Ridgewood Road immediately before and after school, when students jam the crosswalk across the four-lane state highway.
Without the turn signals, often only a couple of vehicles can make the turn onto northbound First Avenue from Forest or Ridgewood during a light cycle because of pedestrians in the crosswalk.
Initially IDOT said the left-turn arrows would be operational by summer. However, the agency has moved to get the signals in much more quickly and look to be ready to roll by this week.
The installation of the new left-turn arrows is a preliminary step in what IDOT has promised will be more upgrades to the intersection prior to 2016. In January, IDOT pledged to find funding to create right-turn-only lanes on southbound First Avenue at Ridgewood and on westbound Forest Avenue at First Avenue.
The lanes should help keep southbound and westbound traffic from backing up at the start and finish of school days.