City to consider plans for safer Prospect crossing

CHAMPAIGN — The city council on Friday received administrators' recommendations on how to make a Prospect Avenue crossing to South Side Elementary safer after a 7-year-old student was hit by a car in September.

The plan includes installing crosswalk markings, a 20 mph school zone along Prospect Avenue and — as parents and the school principal have requested — a crossing guard to usher students across one of the city's busiest roads.

But it's a plan that city officials acknowledge could cause controversy among those who use Prospect Avenue for their daily commute. City council members will review and vote on the recommendations when they meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

Not long after the 7-year-old student was hit and broke two bones in her leg, city officials responded by placing temporary road signs reminding drivers of the school traffic and increasing traffic patrols in the area. City officials said it was a short-term fix while they evaluated the traffic conditions and could get their recommendations to the city council.

The plans city officials will present to council members next week include some items they could have in place within weeks of Tuesday night's meeting, assuming city council members give their OKs:

— Assigning a crossing guard to the intersection of Daniel Street and Prospect Avenue, where the girl was hit. That will cost about $5,000 per year, but funds are already available in the city budget.

— Establishing a 20 mph school zone on Prospect Avenue between Green Street and Haines Boulevard with signs, crosswalk markings and yellow flashers at a cost of about $7,000.

— Updating South Side Elementary's Safe Routes to School plan with a $10,000 state grant and some additional support from the city.

In emails to the city, parents and South Side Elementary Principal Bill Taylor requested those items immediately following the September accident. Other parents have said they have been asking for a crossing guard for years.

Champaign Public Works spokesman Kris Koester said a crossing guard is crucial to the plan to make the Prospect-Daniel intersection safer.

"This can't happen without a crossing guard," Koester said.

Koester added, however, that the reduced speed limit and intermittent traffic stoppages caused by a crossing guard likely will slow the commute for drivers who use Prospect Avenue immediately before and after school.

With the short-term recommendations, Koester said, other changes would need to happen in the coming years to accommodate safe school crossings.

"All these other issues come into play," Koester said.

Longer-term plans include developing a school zone inventory and crossing guard criteria for the city to deem when such action is needed.

City officials also hope council members will give the green light to complete a study to examine whether Prospect Avenue is better suited for a "complete street" design: three lanes of traffic with on-street bicycle lanes.

Another recommendation is to update the Prospect-Green intersection to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. That intersection currently has traffic signals, and it is identified in the Safe Routes to School plan as the appropriate place for students to cross, but it is two blocks away from the nearest intersection to the school at Prospect and Daniel.

According to city documents, that stretch of Prospect Avenue sees about 14,000 to 15,000 vehicles per day. There are about 20 students who might walk across Prospect Avenue to get to South Side Elementary, and about six who might walk across to get to Westview School.

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SheikofHyrule wrote on October 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

This is completely ridiculous.  These changes would affect thousands of drivers daily to help about twenty-six students cross the street.  The simple solution would be to make the Green and Prospect intersection ADA compliant and having a crossing guard there. How many other streets in Champaign have school zone signs on them without the school actually on the street itself?

The worst waste of money is the study about making Prospect a three-lane road with bike lanes.  Reducing the number of lanes on one of the busiest streets in Champaign makes little sense.

Zelp wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

You should read the City Council report suggesting the repairs to make Prospect + Green ADA compliant would cost about $250,000.  The cost of the study for possibly changing Prospect to 3 lanes is $100,000.  

Are you really that concerned with traveling 20mph for 3 blocks that you would want to continue to risk pedestrian safety?  

It is far cheaper and quicker to install School zone flashers, crosswalk and signs on Daniel as it is already ADA compliant ($7,000).

Also there are 5 other locations in Champaign on less busy streets that have uncontrolled crossings, so a better question to ask might be why don't we have one here already?

shurstrike wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

How about telling your kids to walk to the Green Street pedestrian crossing and cross there??

Zelp wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

It is so far out of the way.  For us if we were to follow the suggested safe route it would be 2.7 times as far as walking direct on Daniel St.

So the next time you drive to Rockford, IL.  

On your way, just swing by Indianapolis, IN then stop in South Bend, IN take quick stroll to visit downtown Chicago, and finally arrive at Rockford.

Oh wait, that is not even long enough to replicate how far out of the way it  we would have to travel using Green St, you still have to add an extra 42 km to match

 

Would you ever take that route?  Pretty sure that would be a NO, sounds pretty ridicoulous when I put it in adult terms doesn't it!

EP wrote on October 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm

The new Green street is only 3 lanes and that has been a great improvement on campus ever since.    3 lanes on Prospect could be a viable option for a good stretch of it.   

AndyR wrote on October 19, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Note, after the first several comments, people get much more positive.  Hope to see people at the council meeting next Tue. "Anonymous comments are the bain of the internet." -Anon 

Joe American wrote on October 20, 2013 at 8:10 am

I agree.

Who knows how many of these pro-crosswalk comments are duplicate responses from parent(s) with multiple accounts?  Change a few words here, rearange some thoughts there, and voila!: another concerned citizen.

spangwurfelt wrote on October 19, 2013 at 7:10 pm

This is completely ridiculous! We should be risking student lives just so SheikofHyrule can get to his destination twenty seconds faster. How screwed up are a city's priorities when they put the health of schoolchildren as higher on their agenda than SheikofHyrule's need for speed?

pattsi wrote on October 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I am confused--why is there an effort to teach anyone, especially, children that it proper safety procedure to cross a major street where there is no stop light, which is two blocks away. These children will be adults someday. The very adults who will be dashing across a busy street in an unsafe manner because that was what was instiled during elementary school.

Second I do not see any proposal suggesting Unit 4 revisit the School Choice complex mechanism to move children who have to cross busy streets to get to school to a different elementary school.

Last the sheer suggestion of turning Prospect into a 3 lane street with bike lanes is not within best practice. Prospect is a major N-S street, not meant for bicyces. We have already had 2 bicyclists killed at the intersection of Green and Prospect, let alone the additional number of car accidents. That intersection was redesigned and never during that conversation was there a suggestions for bicycles. Reducing the lanes and adding bicylcles and a school zone for blocks will result in driving behavior of rushing north through the light at Springfield and Prospect creating even more dangers. Just look at the transportation planning literature.

philip wrote on October 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm

How about we just change the school map so that kids on the East side of Prospect go to South Side, and the kids on the West side go to Westview. At $12,000 a year for signs, flashing lights, and a crossing guard, we could probably give them each a free semester of college to compensate for their trouble...

shurstrike wrote on October 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Has anyone asked the question why a 7-year old was crossing Prospect Ave. unattended?

And would we dare ask them to actually walk to a light and cross at the already-paid-for and marked pedestrian crossing? Or is that asking too much?

GP wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I am very glad to hear the city making these efforts to make this area safer for students, bikers, and all who live in this area!!!!  THANK YOU CHAMPAIGN CITY OFFICIALS!!!    The speed of traffic on Prospect is not safe and slowing it down with a School Zone will not only help students, but everyone in this area.  The safety of children should be a priority.  If it slows me down getting to work, that is okay with me.  The current crossing at Green where the light is is not safe for bikers or anyone with strollers or ADA accessible.  There are other roads in town (John and Springfield) where there are School Zones with no school directly on them.  And Prospect has School Zones for Judah and Bottenfield.  Why shouldn't South Side have it too?  The 7 year old child's mother was walking with her.  It was a horrible accident and can be prevented in the future with these safety measures.

Kathy R. wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I am glad to hear that the city is taking action to address a dangerous situation.  Perhaps some of the commenters here are not aware that South Side is a short block from Prospect, so having students walk across Prospect is in fact a way to support neighborhood schools.  The actual number of students who *could* walk to South Side, were there a safe place to cross, is likely greater than 26.  Providing a safe crossing for walkers and bikers, students and adults, supports less traffic congestion and cleaner air -- other goals I'm sure we can all support, even those of us who drive through that area.  As to what price tag we should put on safety and lives... versus the ability of drivers to speed along Prospect twice a day... I suggest people get their priorities straight.

dharmster wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I'm happy to hear the city is seriously considering adding a school zone and other updates in this spot. The neighborhood on the other side of Prospect has lots of young children that attend South Side and getting across at Daniel makes great sense. Drivers need to be aware of children nearby and a school zone sign there just like at Bottenfield and Judah will be a good start. I sincerely hope they get a crossing guard, too. This accident could have been so much worse and we need to protect the South Side children so that never happens.

Zelp wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

I for one will be supprting all these efforts 100%!  School Zone, Crossing guard, and study to reduce Prospect to 3 lanes.  I would use Prospect much more frequently on my bicycle, especially near the Country Club where there is no sidewalk on 1 side of the street.

Mill21 wrote on October 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Thank goodness! I have never understood why there were no markings for Southside on Prospect when it is so close. 

There may only be 26 kids this year that it will impact, but next year it could be 40. 

sometimes city planners need to think less like planners and more like end users. 

lovemahomet wrote on October 18, 2013 at 5:10 pm

As a long time Champaign resident and former crossing guard, I'm very happy to hear this! I drive to and from work on Prospect Ave. every day, and I'll be more than happy to slow down and stop for the crossing guard to help the children across safely. Which of you won't?

Having a school crossing with guard at this corner is not a new idea. There used to be a crossing guard at Prospect and Daniel for many years. When the elementary schools were redistricted due to the re opening of South Side in the '80's, the post at Prospect & Daniel was eliminated. With the schools of choice change that has happened since then, the lights, speed zone, and crossing with guard must be reinstated for the safety of the children- just as it is for other elementary schools. Prospect and Daniel will be just FINE if drivers will slow down, get off their phones, and pay attention to the crossing guard. It doesn't take long!

The intersection of Prospect and Green would be a bad choice for the crossing because it has always been a very dangerous one with many serious accidents occurring there, even with stop lights! That is why the north and south lights operate separately rather than together as the east-west lights do. It would require children to go farther away from the school to cross, and be quite expensive for the city. I do hope that the city does NOT decide to make Prospect Ave. a 3 lane street with bike lanes, though. It has enough vehicle traffic to warrant staying a 4-lane street. 

EP wrote on October 18, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I am for all the changes.  I would support 100% the addition of not only a crossing gaurd at Daniel and Prospect but also cross walk.   I also think that if the school has a grant for the re-zoning of the school zone then it should also be used.  And for the City to have the available, $5,000 a year for the the crossing gaurd and not have used it yet is beyond me.  Crossing guards could be a volunteer job also, I have heard many parents support this idea also.     Lastly, to not have school zone signs in the first place baffels my mind and should be apporoved immediately and permanently installed.   

Weaver-Miner wrote on October 18, 2013 at 7:10 pm

 First, the child was not alone when she was hit. Second, there my be only “26 children” that have to cross this road on foot to get to school, but these kids are crossing in ADDITION TO the COUNTLESS other East-West traveling pedestrians, bike commuters, City Busses, and vehicle traffic that have to dash across this road.   The elephant in the room here is inequity of resources.  Per the 2006 CUUATS ADT (Average Daily Traffic) Map for Champaign-Urbana, (http://www.ccrpc.org/transportation/counts.php ):   Prospect Ave, between W. Green and Haines Ave. counts 17300 cars per day. The stretch of S. Prospect that lies S. of Kirby to Devonshire Rd. (the stretch of road in front of Bottenfield Elementary) has a daily car count of 12300 cars per day.   Bottenfield elementary is located on S. prospect, one mile south of South side elementary. For students having to dodge traffic on S. Prospect (17300 cars per day) to go to Southside, there are no painted crosswalks, no speed limit reductions, no flashing lights. Students at Bottenfield (on the same road, 1 mile to the south) cross a less busy road (12300 cars per day) with the aid of painted crosswalks, speed limit reductions, flashing lights AND Police presence.  Why are there no resources available for students crossing a more heavily trafficked section of S. Prospect, and there ARE a plethora of resources available to students of a school positioned on a nearby stretch of S. Prospect that carries LESS traffic?    17000 vehicles per day is a volume equivalent to the traffic found on: --Springfield Ave., from Mattis to Neal, --West Kirby from Mattis to Neal (and there is a painted and marked cross walk on this road leading to Hessel Park) --North Prospect from the freeway, north to Meijer.   My suspicion is that the commenters against the implementation of a safe crossing at S. Prospect, are folks who do not live in the area around S. Prospect, and don't  have to risk their lives on a daily basis to get across it.

AndyR wrote on October 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm

These recomendations sound very reasonable and not too costly.  I appreciate city staff and police taking this safety issue seriously.  Thanks from the neighborhood.  

elizabethangelo wrote on October 19, 2013 at 10:10 am

I am very grateful the City is considering these options! I think the estimated number of people who would like to use the Daniel / Prospect crossing is very low, and the true number who would benefit is much greater. We have three children who attend South Side. We currently drive the two blocks to school because the crossing situation is so unsafe. We would love to be able to safely cross at Daniel and Prospect. To those suggesting that crossing at Green and Prospect is a better option - clearly you have never tried to navigate a stroller down those very steep concrete stairs. 

Kathy S wrote on October 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I am glad the city is looking into these options, and I hope they at least add a crossing guard and flashing lights.  I'd also love to see Prospect as a 3-lane street with bike lanes, but I realize that's probably a few years away.  It would be a great way to make the city more bike-friendly.

AndyR wrote on October 19, 2013 at 3:10 pm

 Glad to see neighbors here are responding positively to these proposals. Remember to write to your council members and attend the study session on Tuesday.  

Joe American wrote on October 20, 2013 at 8:10 am

Isn't that cute.  9 of the 26 parents (and one apparent bike rider) have gotten on here to voice their support for this project, almost in a templated way, too.

I can see the email now:

"Hurry folks, the NG needs your comments now!  Log onto [insert hyperlink here] and voice support for the redundant crosswalk.  The connon-sense citizens have already voiced their support and as of now, we're outnumbered!  Remember, if you don't let your voice be heard, we'll never get the additional crosswalk!"

LocalTownie wrote on October 23, 2013 at 10:10 am

I'm all for safe crosswalks for kids to walk to school, I wish more kids went to their neighborhood school and could just walk rather than ride a bus across town, but that's another issue.


My concern is the fact that The News Gazette buried another story within this one instead of giving it the attention it deserves. Downsizing Prospect Avenue to allow for bike lanes and spending money to study it. Anyone who lives in this town knows how busy Prospect Avenue is. It's quite narrow for a mile or two and especially difficult to drive during rush hours. I am vehemently against taking lanes away from cars and letting bikes have their own lanes. Bicyclists can easily use side streets to get around rather than using one of what I think, is the busiest roads in Champaign. I don't even want to get started on what a waste of money it is to study this possibility.


This story should stand on its own and not be hidden within another about crosswalks. Bike lanes are a heated topic right now and it deserves proper space and a headline. Especially when we are talking about Prospect Avenue.


Once again I find myself disappointed in this paper.

C-U Townie wrote on October 22, 2013 at 1:10 pm

This type of change is never easy for a city to make. The town has grown and the measures that have been in place need changing. There's no reason that every intersection should not be easily accessible. This includes making it accessible for those with physical disabilities. This also means that intersections need to be safe (a secure accessibility) for children to cross. There are children who are carrying more than their book bags to and from school. It's hard enough to make the journey to school without being afraid to cross a major intersection. 

As people have so clearly stated (in opposition to the changes) Prospect Avenue IS a very busy street. People are racing off to work, racing home... and while those opposed to change may have faith that all drivers will have complete fidelity to the rules of the road I think we've seen too many times this season that this is not the case. If this were a young child that was part of your family... and they were not only hit but critically injured you would be wishing that all these proposed changes had happened earlier. 

So you have to leave for work a bit earlier. If that is such an imposition to you find somewhere closer to your home to work, so that you don't have to commute as far. I mean that was the suggestion for the students... have them switch schools so their commute is shorter (less dangerous). Just because you are a driver does not entitle you to more convenience than a student who is walking to school. Their parents are taxpayers just like you. 

And hey, you can always use side streets... or trek over to Mattis and Neil and go about your business. It's not that far off out of the way. Seems like a good suggestion, following suit to "just cross at Green." I would think the (adult) drivers could set the example for the suggestions they are asking students to take. 

asparagus wrote on October 25, 2013 at 11:10 am

If the kids need to cross there then we need to make it a safe crossing.  I travel on Prospect every  day and I am very willing to sacrifice a little time to contribute to the safety of students coming to and from school. There are alread school zones all over the city and I don't really find them that much of a burden.  As for the cost, that is just a fact of life at the local level in an "urban" environment.  It is not a pork project or something motivated by some centalized federal agency.  This is a local decision made by a local body with intitmate knowledge of the problem.  That is the way government should be.