With construction at the intersection of First Avenue and Forest Avenue in Riverside expected to continue through the spring of 2015, Riverside police have announced their plans to control pedestrian traffic before and after school near Riverside-Brookfield High School.
The police department will deploy two crossing guards at the intersection and its community service officer will patrol the area daily before and after school.
“The Community Service Officer will be that area in a marked car every day,” said Police Chief Thomas Weitzel. “He will patrol from Kimbark to the high school during that main rush, assisting with whatever needs to be done.”
The north sidewalk is closed and all pedestrians are being routed to the south sidewalk at Groveland Avenue.
Crossing guards will be at their posts a half hour longer in both the morning and afternoon, from 7:30 to 9 a.m. and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Crossing guards are no longer being deployed during lunchtime hours.
One crossing guard will be posted on the southeast corner of First and Forest, and will assist students across First Avenue. Another guard will be posted on the southwest corner of First and Ridgewood to assist students across Ridgewood Road.
Weitzel is encouraging students to walk or ride their bikes to school to cut down on the amount of vehicular traffic in an already congested construction zone.
“I also wouldn’t direct kids to walk down First Avenue,” said Weitzel. “It’s just too hazardous.”
With classes at Riverside-Brookfield High School beginning Wednesday, police have already posted signs along the north side of Forest Avenue west of the river warning motorists not to let students out of their vehicles while stopped in traffic.
What’s not entirely clear is how long the crossing arrangement will continue. That’s because the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) is still working on a sewer access project in the northbound lanes of First Avenue just north of Forest Avenue.
In recent weeks, MWRD crews have been working late into the night after falling behind schedule due to an unexpected physical barrier. The MWRD believed it would encounter 9.5 feet of bedrock that would have to be removed to create an access shaft to an intercepting sewer.
However, according to MWRD spokeswoman Allison Fore, construction crews hit a little more than 15 feet of bedrock, which slowed things down. Fore said that the contractor “worked diligently to mitigate this issue, so it doesn’t appear that the schedule will be negatively impacted as a result.”
The contractor has finished removing the bedrock and is in the process of installing forms for the access shaft’s concrete liner. Fore said that the MWRD project work is expected to terminate on or before Oct. 31.
Whenever that projects wraps up, the Illinois Department of Transportation will immediately begin its intersection improvement project. Exactly how much work IDOT will be able to complete will depend on weather. Once temperatures reach 20 degrees, it won’t be possible to pour concrete.
“There’s not that much that [IDOT] will probably get done [in the fall],” said Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera. “It really depends on how quickly the MWRD can finish. One item we’d like to get accomplished this fall is the electrical for all the light standards.”
The IDOT project will entail creating right turn-only lanes on westbound Forest Avenue approaching First Avenue and on southbound First Avenue approaching Ridgewood Road.
That means the pedestrian crossing on the north side of Forest/Ridgewood will remain closed even after the MWRD project is complete. Weitzel said he expected the two-guard, south-side crossing arrangement to be in effect for most if not all of the 2014-15 school year.