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Opinion: Main Street Speed Reduction Makes No Sense

After the tragic death of 9-year-old Carter Vo, some Skokie residents expressed concern about the speed limit on Main Street near Middleton Elementary School.

Editor's note: The following is an opinion and does not reflect Skokie Patch's view on said issue. If you'd like to provide a counter to this piece, please email me at georges@patch.com. 

I oppose the speed limit reduction on Main Street.

The proposed ordinance was slated for a second reading and included as part of the consent agenda at the Village of Skokie Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 1.  

I had hoped the Village Trustees would vote in the best interests of the community at large and not simply follow the Public Safety Task Force’s recommendations, especially since none of the Skokie Staff representatives on that committee or the consultant supported the speed limit reduction at the Aug. 8, meeting.  In addition, there were several factual errors in the ordinance as proposed and I do not believe the ordinance as written represents what Trustee Edie Sue Sutker proposed at the Aug. 20 Board of Trustees meeting. 

Therefore, I wrote a letter to encourage the Trustees to either vote against this ordinance, or at least postpone a vote until more information could be obtained. Instead, at the Oct. 1 meeting, the Trustees chose to ignore facts, statistics, and their staff suggestions and approved the proposed ordinance.

At the Board of Trustees meeting on Aug. 20, which is being categorized as the first reading of the ordinance, there was no specific ordinance presented – only the approval of recommendations by the Public Safety Task Force. In addition, at the meeting on Aug. 20, of the residents who spoke, all of them said they believed in pedestrian safety near Middleton, but of those who mentioned items regarding ordinances (speed limit reduction or traffic signal), two-thirds spoke against it. In my opinion, several amendments were needed to the proposed ordinance since there were several factual errors before it should have been placed on the agenda for a vote at the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 1.

While the ordinance was removed at my request from the consent agenda and opened for public comment, it was still approved unanimously by the Board of Trustees.  I was surprised that the ordinance, which clearly had some resident opposition, would have been voted upon rather than tabled until resident concerns regarding the actual ordinance could be reviewed.

I agree that public safety near schools is something that everyone should support. However, I had hoped that the Board of Trustees would balance those needs with the needs of the community as a whole for efficient transportation throughout Skokie. 

While I was not part of the Public Safety Task Force, I did attend all meetings of the group as a concerned resident.  The Public Safety Task Force was formed not to look at efficient transportation or even the impact of their decisions outside of the immediate area of Middleton School, but rather its primary goal was exclusively pedestrian safety in School District 73.5. The Task Force only had citizen representatives from within the 73.5 School District, yet the recommendations from the group would affect residents throughout the community – especially since the proposed speed limit reduction is not restricted to only the area of Middleton School. The Village of Skokie Staff that served on the Public Safety Task Force did represent the interests of the community at large and were largely against the speed limit reduction. 

In attendance at the Aug. 8 meeting of the Public Safety Task Force were Village Director of Engineering Fred Schattner, Village Manager Albert Rigoni, Skokie Police Chief Anthony Scarpelli, among others.  At this meeting, the Village Manager remained fairly silent and I do not recall him voicing an opinion on the issue of speed limit reductions.  However, Mr. Schattner, Mr. Scarpelli, and the other police officer all agreed with the consultant that speed limit reductions are ineffective in reducing overall traffic speed.  When the actual vote on this issue by the Public Safety Task Force came up, none of the staff actually voted for the speed limit reduction and instead remained silent (perhaps because they knew they would be out-voted by the very vocal resident members of the task force).  I cannot believe that Village Staff are opposed to improving public safety, so my only conclusion is that they believe that reducing the speed limit will not have the desired effect and could negatively impact other areas or citizens.

At the Village Board Meeting on Oct. 2, Trustee Randy Roberts said, “The beauty of a democracy is sometimes we can experiment on a local level and we don’t always have to follow consultants.  And sometimes common sense says that we should try and experiment and if they don’t work we can go back and we can change.”  I think it will be extremely difficult to increase the speed limit back to the 30mph speed limit that the consultants thought was appropriate.  However, maybe it will happen if enough residents complain when they do not see an effect on the average speed on Main Street and they see an increase on traffic on their neighboring residential streets.

Again, I would like to state that there were several factual errors in the ordinance as presented, including the false representation that the consultant, Gewalt Hamilton, supported the speed limit reduction along Main Street.  While I am all for decreasing the actual travel speeds on Main in order to improve traffic safety, I am against decreasing the speed limit on Main Street because I have listened to the Village Staff and Consultants who have stated that it will not be effective.  Despite the fact that the Board of Trustees are elected to represent the community at large, in this case, they chose to “experiment” and listen to a few very vocal residents appointed to the special Public Safety Task Force whose primary purpose was pedestrian safety near schools, not the overall well-being of the community.

Katie Gudgel October 09, 2012 at 01:51 PM
My point was exactly that decisions are being made without actually looking at the facts. The "study" was only for Middleton, and the Task Force was established to only look at District 73.5. But one of the task force members is now using as justification of HIS decision to vote for the reduction in speed limit along Main St claiming that there isn't another street that is similar. So, what I am saying is that the west end of Main St is just as similar to the east end of Main St as either one of them are to Church. So, why was it "justified" for a focus group to be broadly addressing issues all along Main St when there are other areas that may be even more similar to the Middleton area. So, what I am trying to say is where is the "border" between what the task force set out to do and what they actually did. They arbitrarily looked at all of Main St - without having done studies, asked local residents, or even asked the principals of the other schools. So, if this focused task force was "allowed" to do this for Main St, then why did they stop there? Why didn't they just reduce the speed limit everywhere in town? My contention is that this task force over-stepped their bounds and that the Village Trustees did not listen their staff who do have the experience looking at conditions throughout the Village.
The Dot October 09, 2012 at 01:58 PM
While some of you argue about whether or not a much needed reduced speed limit and traffic light is justified on Main St, has anyone ever noticed that Oakton St has no shortage of $5 haircut barber shops or salons and baba ghannoug?
Earl Weiss October 09, 2012 at 02:35 PM
" rzdw92 Sure, there's lots of streets with multiple schools. But are they similar to Main St?" You are splitting hairs. 1. Local entities have input on what counties do with roads thru their municipalities. 2. Tenths of a mile make a big difference? 3. Main Street / Middleton is now getting a Stoplight so that is a dead issue vis a vis speed reduction. So, you are correct - the discussion basicaly ends. We will have to agree to disagree. Some love the "Nanny State". Some don't. .
J C October 09, 2012 at 05:15 PM
$5 omg I paid $12 for my last one....
The Dot October 09, 2012 at 05:57 PM
check out little Dearborn the next time you're on Oakton.

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