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.