Public Works Director John Schaefer hosted two public hearings in September sharing the results of two traffic tests conducted in May and July. The hearings let Schaefer get community feedback on plans to improve safety on 183rd Street.
The first test in May simulated the traffic diet approach on 183rd Street, which was conducted over two weeks from Morgan Street west to Riegel Road.
The goal of the lane restructuring is to slow vehicles down without causing too much traffic congestion. Lane reduction was one option suggested by the engineering firm Burns & McDonnell in a 2021 traffic study commissioned by the village.
Most residents at the Sept. 15 open house strongly supported the traffic diet plan, which will implement the new lane configuration from Morgan Street to Dixie Highway. Some expressed hope the village can go further, extending the restructured lanes to the village’s western edge on Kedzie Avenue.
Schaefer said the east side of town was given priority because the street is almost entirely residential. By contrast, 183rd west of Dixie Highway includes some residential areas, but those are mixed with business uses.
Bike lanes will be a new addition. Cyclists at previous village meetings have said the lack of bike lanes and speeding vehicles make the street unusable for them.
Schaefer said he would prefer to paint the bike lanes a solid color to make them more visible, but that option is not financially feasible right now, so the plan calls for a stripe to distinguish the lane from vehicle traffic lanes. There will be solid green paint filling the lane at intersections.
The other test in July temporarily blocked Gottschalk Avenue at the intersection with 183rd Street to measure the impact of permanently making Gottschalk a dead end.
Some residents gave the plan an enthusiastic endorsement, but others worry the closure will increase traffic problems on nearby streets.
In addition to speeding on 183rd Street, cars attempting to turn onto 183rd from Gottschalk have limited visibility to the east. A pedestrian was killed there in 2015.
Schaefer said July traffic counts taken before and during the dead end test showed that most adjacent streets saw little or no increase in traffic with the exception of Olive Road.
Advocates for closing the road said they thought the impact was minimal and that traffic volume might go down more if the dead end option was implemented permanently. They expect that as drivers get used to the change they may opt for other routes between Ridge Road and 183rd Street.
Several residents said they saw more traffic on Homewood Avenue, which was not included in the study. Schaefer offered to conduct another dead end test for a longer period and include Homewood Avenue in order to get a more complete sense of the impact in the neighborhood.
“Nothing’s cut in stone,” Schaefer said. “We’re trying to work what’s going to be the best for the community and the residents in that area.”