The good news is that the motorists and pedestrians who must navigate the obstacle course that is the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road will perhaps have an easier time of it in the future, after the Illinois Department of Transportation reconfigures the intersection.
Those triangular islands that form the right turn lanes will be eliminated and double left-turn lanes will be striped at all four approaches, hopefully eliminating some of the backups.
Countdown signals are also in the plans, which will give pedestrians a better idea of just how long they have to traverse the wide roadway which, including turning lanes, is seven to nine lanes wide depending on which direction you’re headed.
There are also plans to so some rejiggering of traffic and turn lanes on Harlem Avenue at 23rd Street – the Harlem gateway to both Cermak Plaza and North Riverside Plaza which can be especially tricky for pedestrians dodging turning vehicles and cars speeding down Harlem Avenue trying to beat the red light.
While those projects aren’t part of IDOT’s resurfacing project for Harlem Avenue this summer, the agency has revealed that it’s seeking bids for the work in August, which means the work is imminent, probably kicking off early next spring.
For North Riverside officials, that’s the bad news part of the story. While they knew a Harlem/Cermak redo was coming, it could have been as late as 2027. Now it’s on their doorstep.
The project means IDOT is removing the red-light cameras at the intersection –permanently. While that’s great for motorists, it’s awful news if you’re an elected official in North Riverside, because the millions derived from red-light violation fines have paid for a large chunk of the village’s public safety pension obligation. That’s going to disappear overnight.
North Riverside’s 2021-22 fiscal year ends April 30. That means trustees must make the loss of the revenue in one year – at the latest – a central focus of their budget discussion for the new fiscal year that begins May 1.
While they may not need an immediate solution, one needs to be ready when the 2023-24 fiscal year begins May 1, 2023. For a village board that will need a third attempt later this month to try and implement a rat-control program, we’d say officials had best get cracking on crafting a solution – and leave their “we can’t possibly expect taxpayers or business owners to contribute a dime” act at home.
This revenue loss of between $1.5 and $2 million per year is no joke and it needs serious officials offering serious solutions. This isn’t going to be an easy discussion, and it will require leadership and imagination from trustees.
Of course, that’s the job they supposedly signed up for. Now it’s time for them to prove they’re up to the job.