Anyone who has driven through the intersection of 47th Street and East Avenue at rush hour, or just after a train has passed through, knows what a pain in the neck it can be.
The intersection abuts three villages. West of East Avenue is LaGrange, whose Sedgwick Park — the largest park in the village — runs along East Avenue south of 47th Street.
East of the intersection, to the south, is McCook. More specifically, east of the intersection is a large quarry. The village’s 300 or so residents live far from the intersection, secluded in a neighborhood east of First Avenue.
To the north of the intersection on the east side of what, in the village, is called Eberly Avenue, is Brookfield. And while LaGrange residents have not been shy about how changes to the intersection might affect their homes and their property values, Brookfield residents have been mute.
Just two Brookfield residents, one of them a 47th Street business owner, are on the Citizens Advisory Group that the Illinois Department of Transportation has put together as a kind of partner.
That strikes us as odd because there are no residential properties closer to the 47th Street/East Avenue intersection than the ones in Brookfield. If anyone would be affected by a possible overpass or underpass, it’s sure to be people living in the 4600 blocks of Blanchan and Eberly avenues, not to mention the business immediately east.
Maybe the lack involvement is due to a world-weary suspicion that citizens advisory groups are toothless committees at the mercy of state and federal officials who will, in the end, do as they see fit. Maybe it’s because the prospect for change at the intersection is so far off (there’s no funding in place) that it looks like a mirage.
Or maybe it’s that village government appears to have little interest in the matter. Local government could certainly try to find a way to either advocate for that part of town or increase awareness and interest in the issue.
But if residents and business owners in Brookfield who live in that area are genuinely concerned about the impact of changes — whether they’re grade-separation structures or traffic signals or nothing at all — on their homes and businesses, the time to get involved is now.
To be sure, IDOT could do a better job of making it easier to take part in the actual meetings. Having them at 10 a.m. on a weekday is close to impossible for folks running businesses or those working 9 to 5. The agency could do a better job reaching out to those people and suggesting other ways they could get involved in the process.
Regardless, there is a website available with information about what is being discussed. You can find it at www.47eastavestudy.com.
You can sign up to join the citizens advisory group or you can simply peruse summaries of past meetings, study documents and statistics related to the intersection or see what solutions already have been proposed for other priority intersections being considered by IDOT.
The 47th Street/East Avenue intersection is a complicated one. Traffic flow and safety need to be improved there. Brookfield residents need to make sure they have their say.