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D161 board considering Western Avenue traffic study to address backup situation

Looking to improve traffic flow during peak arrival and dismissal periods at Western Avenue Elementary School, Flossmoor School District 161 is considering a study that also includes parking supply.

Associate Superintendent Fran LaBella presented a plan to the board of education on Monday, Dec. 13, that would pay Eriksson Engineering Associates Ltd. $7,500 to complete the study. LaBella noted there have been traffic issues at the school, which is located on Western Avenue, a major thoroughfare.

“If you’ve been there, especially after school, we tend to back up Western Avenue because there’s not enough room in the parking lot,” LaBella said.

The study calls for EEA to make a field visit and observations, including pedestrian and bicycle circulation, bus operations and nearby intersections impacted by the school’s ingress/egress, in addition to the aforementioned drop-off/pick-up as well as parking utilization and patterns. Traffic data collection would also be done before identifying issues and opportunities, estimating future traffic projections, analyzing intersection capacity and evaluating on-site circulation, then reporting and meeting with the project team.

“Why are we doing this at Western only when it’s my understanding we’re having traffic pattern issues at all schools?” Board Member David Linnear asked.

LaBella said some of it comes down to Western being alongside a major road. While other schools such as Heather Hill are also experiencing traffic flow issues, they are surrounded by local neighborhood roads and not blocking a major thoroughfare. Parker Junior High School is near Flossmoor Road, but the backups are on the other side, through the neighborhoods, LaBella said.

“It’s becoming a real issue with the Flossmoor Police Department that we’re backing up Western Avenue,” LaBella said. “It’s one thing to have Crescent blocked up. It’s another thing to have Western Avenue not moving.”

Linnear still questioned spending money on someone telling the district it has a problem officials already know it has. And he wondered if it is a “Band-Aid” fix for Western Avenue while the district intends to look at all school updates through long-range planning.

LaBella said she thinks Western Avenue deserves the attention it is getting through this study. She added that the scientific approach is designed to give administrators and board members a better idea of how to fix the issues at the elementary school.

“I believe you’re going to have to do something about Western Avenue,” she said. “There’s really not enough parking there.”

Superintendent Dana Smith added that the school board has not expressed an interest in spending the kind of money it would take to alter the traffic situation at schools, such as Heather Hill, with the district’s finite resources. He said expanding the traffic study is possible, but other schools are not experiencing the type of “crisis” that Western Avenue has at the moment. The study will provide valuable feedback on how to address the issues there, he added.

The proposal was for discussion only at the meeting and still needs a formal vote from the school board.

Other Business

  • The school board voted unanimously to approve an asphalt repair contract with Advantage Paving Solutions for $393,805. The Joliet-based company is to do repair work at both Flossmoor Hills and Heather Hill elementary schools.
  • The school board voted unanimously to approve recognition stipends of $750 each for 38 District 161 staff members who are not included in the Flossmoor Education Association. The board on Nov. 22 approved recognition stipends for members of the FEA as part of a Memorandum of Understanding related to vaccine requirements, but Smith, in a report to the board, added that non-FEA members also deserved recognition for their hard work and dedication.

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