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Local

Lights out for Batavia crosswalk device

Aldermen told city can’t legally replace mechanism

The signs and pavement markings will remain, but rapid-flashing lights will not be replaced for the pedestrian crossing across Route 31 at McKee Street in Batavia.
The signs and pavement markings will remain, but rapid-flashing lights will not be replaced for the pedestrian crossing across Route 31 at McKee Street in Batavia.

BATAVIA – The flashing-light pedestrian crosswalk device at McKee Street and Route 31 in Batavia will not be replaced.

Attorneys for the city of Batavia have advised aldermen that they cannot legally replace the rapid-flashing beacon, in light of a directive from the Federal Highway Administration.

Earlier this year, the rapid-flashing device on the east side of the state highway was destroyed when it was hit by a pickup truck.

The FHA rescinded authorizations for the beacons nationally at the end of last year, allowing existing devices to remain in operation only “until the end of useful life.”

The city has a spare device on hand, but in a memo to aldermen, City Attorney Roman Seckel wrote that both the federal agency and the Illinois Department of Transportation have clearly ruled out the installation of replacements.

The city has several other crossings equipped with the button-activated beacons, designed to allow pedestrians and bicyclists to stop vehicle traffic and give them the right-of-way.

The rapid-flashing, yellow-light beacons are in operation along Route 31 and Route 25, as well as at bike trail crossings at Hart Road and South Raddant Road. The devices are mounted on posts on both sides of the roadway.

The pavement markings and standard pedestrian crosswalk signs will remain at the McKee crossing. The flashing-light device on the west side of the highway was removed soon after the sister beacon across the street was destroyed.

However, the Batavia City Council remains intent on making Batavia pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

At a committee meeting March 6, after learning they cannot repair the McKee beacon, aldermen asked Public Works Director Gary Holm to investigate other options, including the overhead High-intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacon, known as the HAWK system, which remains legal to install and maintain.

Meanwhile, Holm is awaiting a response from IDOT for permission to add a standard crosswalk, with signs and pavement markings, at the intersection of Route 31 and Houston Street, one block south of McKee.

John Gamble, chairman of the Batavia Bicycle Commission, told aldermen that the commission is strongly in favor of a designated crossing at Houston Street.

A pedestrian island in the middle of the highway is the safest option, Gamble said. He also suggested the city pursue the HAWK system.

First Ward Alderman Michael O’Brien and 2nd Ward Alderman Alan Wolff said the city should seek a speed-limit reduction on the highway.

Seventh Ward Alderman Dave Brown said a streetscape project on Route 31 with traffic-calming features should be investigated.

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