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Batavia aldermen consider funding crosswalk safety

Signal improvements could cost $500,000

Batavia officials are discussing ways to improve the safety of existing street crossings already equipped with pedestrian-activated lights, such as this one at Route 31 and McKee Street.
Batavia officials are discussing ways to improve the safety of existing street crossings already equipped with pedestrian-activated lights, such as this one at Route 31 and McKee Street.

BATAVIA – The Batavia City Council is considering a proposal to spend $500,000 to improve the three pedestrian crosswalks on Route 31 that are equipped with flashing lights.

The plan, recommended by the city staff, will be part of discussions about the 2018 city budget, which get underway Nov. 9.

The button-activated crosswalk lights are designed to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to stop vehicle traffic on the four-lane highway, known locally as Batavia Avenue, and to give them the right of way.

The crosswalks are located at Batavia Avenue’s intersections with McKee Street, Union Avenue and Morton Street.

The rapidly flashing, yellow-light beacons are mounted on posts on both sides of the highway. But a clear view of them and of the pedestrians or cyclists crossing the roadway can be obstructed for motorists in the inside lane when there are vehicles in the outside lane.

Batavia City Engineer Rahat Bari outlined a proposal at a recent committee meeting that would involve installation of additional flashing lights. These would be mounted on a mast hanging over the roadway, and on posts 200 feet ahead of the crosswalk. In addition, the vehicle stop line on the pavement would be set farther ahead.

“Let’s make an intermediate improvement there … that we know will make it safer,” Bari told city aldermen.

Bari said the Illinois Department of Transportation can be expected to approve the change, and that the improvements realistically could be in place by next spring or summer.

The McKee Street location, where three accidents have occurred in the last couple of years, is regarded as the most dangerous of the three crossings.

A vision for the river

Since last spring, aldermen have been looking at the reconstruction and improvements at the sewage treatment plant as an opportunity to reroute the bicycle trail around the facility’s east side, along the west bank of the Fox River.

Aldermen and other city officials took a walking tour of the proposed route and were captivated by the beautiful view.

At a committee meeting last month, they found out that the price for that view would be about $4.5 million to $5 million. The project would involve significant engineering work, including construction of a retaining wall.

The trail’s route now is along the west side of the plant’s property, but has been temporarily detoured to Water Street during the construction project.

Chastened by the high price tag, aldermen decided that, at least in the short term, the path will need to be returned to the west side route.

But not before 1st Ward Alderman Scott Salvati shared his inspiration for the trail.

“The river is a jewel,” Salvati said. “Let’s create a vision for the entire river. It takes some vision, and it takes some guts.”

Salvati’s 1st Ward colleague, Alderman Michael O’Brien, agreed.

“I think we need to take the river back and give it to the people of Batavia,” O’Brien said.

Seventh Ward Alderman Dave Brown, noting that the council wants to work on riverbank erosion projects, said rerouting the trail along the west side of the plant is a long-term goal the city should pursue.

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