Traffic patterns for cars and trucks in downtown Flossmoor will not change following approval of a plan designed to make crossing Sterling Avenue a safer experience.
However, pedestrians will be asked to alter their trek across Sterling at the traffic island just west of the Metra station.
Under the plan, approved in a split vote of the Flossmoor Village Board on Monday, May 21, two existing crosswalks at the traffic island will be removed. A new crosswalk will be installed at the south end of the traffic island.
Traffic engineer Jason Fluhr, who prepared a study of current conditions in the downtown area, recommended the removal of the two crosswalks and suggested several other changes that would make navigating Flossmoor’s central business district easier for drivers and safer for pedestrians.
Currently, one of the crosswalks leads directly into a tunnel beneath the Metra station. During morning and afternoon rush hours, that route is a funnel for commuters on their way to and from work, and also for students at both Western Avenue School and Parker Junior High School.
“Our challenge is to get pedestrians to not cross (Sterling) at the tunnel,” Trustee Philip Minga said.
The plan was approved by trustees in a 5 to 1 vote. Trustee James Mitros voted against the plan because he is opposed to the removal of two 15-minute parking spaces in front of the post office just west of the traffic circle.
Fluhr also recommended the removal of a post office box that has been located on the traffic circle for many years. Board members delayed action on the removal of the box, which Mayor Paul Braun called “the most controversial part of the plan.” If the box is removed, Braun said it is likely that a similar mail drop-off for cars will be installed on Central Drive near the post office.
Village officials say complaints about traffic in downtown Flossmoor have been growing for the last few years. Fluhr, of Baxter & Woodman Consulting Engineers, was commissioned to do the traffic study following an accident last August.
On Aug. 29, according to Flossmoor police, an inattentive driver struck a mother and her two children while they were crossing from the traffic island to the post office corner. The victims were treated on the scene for minor injuries and the driver was issued a citation for failure to yield to a pedestrian.
Braun met with residents following the accident and the board hired Baxter & Woodman to do the traffic study. Village officials have discussed downtown traffic conditions with their counterparts at Flossmoor School District 161 and last week announced that an afternoon crossing guard will be stationed at Sterling and Flossmoor Road.
A number of residents addressed the board about their downtown traffic concerns.
Mary Murray lives in the neighborhood just north of downtown. Murray said she won’t let her 9-year-daughter, a student at Western Avenue, walk to school because the downtown crossings are too dangerous.
“I don’t care about parking spaces,” Murray said. “My concern is the safety of children.”
According to Fluhr’s study, numerous factors make the downtown area dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians. Sightlines are bad, especially for drivers unfamiliar with Flossmoor’s downtown. Signs are confusing. The traffic island is, essentially, a roundabout and needs to be treated like one, he said. The mailbox is “one more distraction for drivers who are trying to navigate a difficult intersection.”
His recommendations call for a new stop sign on Sterling as it enters the downtown from the north. The current 24-inch sign, just outside the Flossmoor Public Library, is to be replaced with a 36-inch sign with flashing LED lights. Also a “stop ahead” warning sign will be posted 150 feet north of the stop sign.
Existing signs on the traffic island will be replaced with signs that make it clear which lanes in the downtown area are one-way. Chevrons will point to one-way lanes and pedestrian crossing signs will be added.
Painted crosswalks will be added at the south end of the traffic island. The new crosswalk will be a shorter distance across Sterling than either of the two existing routes across the traffic island. The pavement will be painted at the new crosswalk on both the east and west side of Sterling. Vertical delineators with reflectors will be placed on the western curb.
Fluhr told the H-F Chronicle that a fence, or vegetation, may be placed on the traffic island where the existing crosswalks are located. The island, which also includes benches and a statue, will still be accessible from its south end.
Flossmoor Public Works Director John Brunke said all the improvements will cost about $15,500. Work will begin this summer so that it can be completed by the start of school in August.
Braun told the board and audience members that any changes that take place this year will be temporary. The village has applied for a grant from Cook County that would fund a large-scale streetscape improvement in the downtown area.
Brunke said it may take a “several years” to secure the grant and complete the streetscape project. The changes proposed in Fluhr’s plan are low-cost steps to improve driving conditions and pedestrian safety, he said.