LEMONT – Residents packed Village Hall on Sept. 9 to protest the opening of First Street to through traffic during a meeting of the village board of trustees.
The primary concern of those in attendance was how the increased traffic would affect pedestrian safety in a residential area with a narrow road and limited sidewalks.
As part of a $185,813 construction project to widen First Street, the village will pave a portion of the street between Woodglen and Berkley lanes that is currently barricaded.
This would allow traffic from McCarthy Road to use First Street to access Berkley Lane and the rest of the Covington Knolls subdivision to the south.
Mayor Brian Reaves said he knows that opening First Street is a contentious issue, but allowing traffic to go through subdivisions is common and is part of connectivity for the village.
"Stub streets are designed to go through," he said.
But attendees who spoke at the meeting expressed doubt about the need for connectivity with this road, especially when weighed against the potential danger to pedestrians.
"Are you guys thinking that when a kid gets hurt ... is that a risk you are willing to take?" said Mike Breszach, who lives on Chatham Drive. "This connectivity is just going to make traffic go faster down the street."
Kathy Swanstrom, who lives on First Street, was concerned about there not being enough sidewalk along the street. The sidewalk is on the west side of the street and stops at Bethany Lutheran Cemetery, before it reaches McCarthy Road.
"How is this going to work when there isn't even enough room for sidewalks on both sides?," she said. "I think what you need to consider is to fix First Street, not open it up."
Reaves said the village will be taking steps to protect pedestrians on First Street.
"I have been assured personally by Chief Shaughnessy that not only will there be speed signs out there, there will be a visible police presence on that street," he said.
Reaves said bushes have been removed from the intersection of First Street and McCarthy Road to improve the line of sight for drivers.
Public Works Director Ralph Pukula said a three-way stop will be added at Schultz and First streets.
Kes Jodwalis, who lives on Berkley Lane, was one of several residents who wondered why the village thought it was better to open First Street to through traffic than Fourth Street.
Reaves said a village study determined the line of sight from McCarthy Road to Fourth Street was worse and the changes needed to improve that line of sight were too costly.
Village Administrator George Schafer said the village would need to add a traffic signal to the intersection of McCarthy Road and Fourth Street and sidewalks on Fourth Street.
He said the village estimated the cost of the project would be $500,000.