Riverside has a reputation, whether it’s warranted or not, from out-of-towners as a place that’s difficult to get in and out of. Next month, the Riverside Village Board is expected to talk about making it a little tougher.
On May 15, Trustee Joseph Ballerine requested that the village board and staff look at the possibility of placing cul-de-sacs at the ends of streets along Harlem Avenue as a way to promote public safety and also eliminate cut-through traffic.
“I think it’s at least worth a discussion,” said Ballerine.
While access to the village is limited on its north, south and western borders, Riverside has numerous entrances along Harlem Avenue. Some of those streets are main thoroughfares and controlled by stop lights — Longcommon, Addison, Burlington and Quincy.
But the others simply give access to residential neighborhoods, and provide cut-through opportunities to motorists whenever there’s traffic or trains jamming things up on Harlem Avenue.
Ballerine noted that on one occasion he was on Byrd Road when the Harlem Avenue train crossing just south of 26th Street was closed to traffic.
“The amount of traffic going down Byrd Road rivaled First Avenue,” said Ballerine, who added the traffic was coming from people who had passed Longcommon Road and were seeking a way to backtrack to avoid the blockage. Berkeley Road, which leads to Byrd Road, provided a perfect shortcut.
“Berkeley is the perfect example,” Ballerine said. “There’s no reason to turn there unless you live on Berkeley.”
Another candidate for a cul-de-sac, said Ballerine, is Robinson Court, a short east-west street that runs along the north side of Harrington Park. In 1990, a driver who blacked out at the wheel jumped the curb near Delaplaine and Robinson and drove through the park, killing three children who were playing T-ball.
Although the car was originally on Delaplaine Road, Ballerine said closing Robinson Court off at Harlem would be in the interest of public safety.
Other streets that intersect with Harlem Avenue and don’t directly connect with a main thoroughfare leading toward the center of the village include York Road and Lindberg Road.
Ballerine said he was spurred to bring up the subject at this time after receiving calls and emails from residents regarding a recent spate of daytime burglaries and an incident on Shenstone Road where a man threatened a police officer with an ice pick. In the latter incident, the alleged offender walked to a Riverside address from a bus stop in North Riverside.
Trustee Doug Pollock also threw his support behind looking at cul-de-sacs, saying that with fewer entrances from Harlem Avenue, the village also might be able to consider installing surveillance cameras at the ones that remain as an investigative tool for police.
Eliminating cut-through traffic would be a side benefit of limiting access points to the village, he said.
“Public safety is our number-one priority,” said Pollock, “and if it makes a significant contribution to public safety, we’ve got to take a look at it.”
Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said he is awaiting further information from the board before doing research on whether to recommend cul-de-sacs along Harlem Avenue.
“We’d probably look at other municipalities,” said Weitzel, who added he’s talked in the past with Oak Park’s police chief about the string of cul-de-sacs along Austin Boulevard. Berwyn also has placed cul-de-sacs on many residential streets at Roosevelt Road.
The village board is expected to take up the issue again at its next regularly scheduled meeting, on June 5.