While a solution to the traffic and safety issues at the 47th Street/East Avenue intersection may be years away, LaGrange residents and some members of that village’s government have already voiced opposition to creating a grade separation – such as an overpass – at the intersection.
But that sentiment may not necessarily be shared across East Avenue in Brookfield, though very few Brookfield residents have participated in an Illinois Department of Transportation-led study of the intersection, which began in January.
At the second meeting of the Community Advisory Group on May 29, there were just three Brookfield residents in attendance among the 30 or so people gathered to nail down the scope of the problems at 47th Street and East Avenue.
But two of the three, who are on the Citizens Advisory Group, favor some sort of grade separation structure there to improve traffic flow and address safety.
Ofelia Walker, who lives in the 4600 block of Blanchan Avenue, said she was prompted to join the citizens group after witnessing two serious crashes, one of them fatal, at the intersection.
Walker said she favors an East Avenue underpass and also would like bicycle lanes added to the roadways to improve safety
Meanwhile, Ellen Frantzen, who owns Joe Saloon, located about a half mile east of the intersection on 47th Street, said she favors a railroad overpass to improve traffic flow and safety.
The problem is so few Brookfield residents are involved — there is no resident involvement from McCook, which abuts the southeast corner of the intersection, at this point — Frantzen believes that their opinions won’t carry much weight.
“It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the attention,” said Frantzen, who called for IDOT to directly involve Brookfield residents and business owners near the intersection. She also said IDOT could schedule its meetings on the study at a more convenient time. Last week’s meeting was held from 10 a.m. to noon.
“That’s just an ungodly hour,” she said. “I think they need to have a meeting for Brookfield people closer to their homes and at a better hour.”
Frantzen said she has offered her tavern, which has a separate party room, for a meeting between IDOT and 47th Street business owners.
LaGrange residents who have been involved in the citizens group have lobbied against a grade-separation structure. Sheri Barrette, a member of the citizens group, has started a Facebook page to disseminate information about the study and to encourage people to sign an online petition in opposition to a grade separation.
At the May 29 meeting, Barrette said that the petition had gotten about 250 signatures.
Two LaGrange village trustees and LaGrange’s village manager attended the May 29 meeting. There was no one from Brookfield government in attendance.
Brookfield President Kit Ketchmark said LaGrange had a larger stake in terms of the area of its village affected by any improvement to the intersection.
“Our portion of that is significantly smaller,” said Ketchmark, who expressed skepticism that much will change there in the end.
“We’re a stakeholder and we’re seeing where they want it to lead, but how much can they really do?” Ketchmark asked. “It doesn’t sound like East Avenue and 47th Street is their highest priority.”
Whether anything will end up happening at the intersection is unknown. The study being undertaken by IDOT at this point is preliminary. A range of potential solutions may be introduced at the next Community Advisory Group meeting in the fall, but there is no funding set aside at this point to complete any potential improvement.
David Heslinga, director of infrastructure planning and design for V3 Companies, an engineering firm engaged by IDOT as its lead consultant, said it’s possible IDOT could decide to leave the intersection as it is.
“We are going to look at a range of solutions of how you can make this intersection function more efficiently and safely,” said Heslinga. “We will look at simple intersection improvements and we will look at grade separation as well. It’s possible we do nothing at all.”
The IDOT study is being funded through monies received by the state of Illinois as part of a legal settlement with Vulcan Materials over a damaged section of Joliet Road, which was shut down to traffic in 1998. IDOT has confirmed it has no plans to re-open that section of Joliet Road to traffic.
The intersection of 47th Street and East Avenue is one of six high-priority areas being considered for improvement by IDOT to improve traffic flow near the closed section of roadway.