Speed cameras planned near Jefferson Park
by BRIAN NADIG
The decision to install automated speed enforcement cameras next to Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave., was based in part on the fact that 272 accidents occurred within a 1/8-mile radius of the park from 2009 to 2011, according to the city Department of Transportation.
Of the 1,495 parks and schools in the city, Jefferson Park ranked 55th on the priority list for a safety zone that would include cameras, new signs and high-visibility crosswalks, department coordinating planner David Pulsipher said. The department also considered the number of children who live in each area and the number of accidents which were caused by speeding, which was a factor in 30 percent of the crashes near the park.
Pulsipher was the guest speaker at an Oct. 28 community meeting which Alderman John Arena (45th) held to address concerns about speed cameras. Two residents attended the meeting, but Arena has said that his staff has heard concerns from many constituents.
A speed camera on Higgins Avenue the north side of the park and another on Lawrence Avenue on the south side of the park are scheduled to be installed by the end of November, and each camera will be able to capture traffic heading both east and west, Pulsipher said. The department plans to install cameras near 50 parks and schools by the end of the year.
Arena, who voted against the speed camera ordinance, said that while he hopes that the cameras will slow near traffic and schools, he objects to the way that the Children’s Safety Zone Program is being implemented. He said that safety measures that are less intrusive than a camera could be used at some locations and that the effect of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Lawrence and Long avenues was not considered in the decision to place cameras at Jefferson Park.
Arena said that he was not consulted about the placement of cameras in the 45th Ward. He said that the intersection of Nagle and Peterson avenues, which is near Rosedale Park, 6312 W. Rosedale Ave., as a location that should have been given greater consideration for safety improvements. It is difficult for pedestrians to cross Nagle and for motorists to turn left from Peterson onto Nagle because of speeding traffic, he said.
Under the ordinance, speed cameras can only be installed within an eighth of a mile a park or school. Crash data for the area around Rosedale Park was not available.
The installation of pedestrian crossing signs in the crosswalk on Nagle at Peterson has been considered, but the intersection’s configuration along with rush hour parking restrictions on Nagle prevents their placement, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said. It is not unusual for crossing signs to be struck by cars, but they are used in some crosswalks to encourage motorists to stop for pedestrians, as required under state law, he said.
Most of the locations which receive cameras also will receive electronic "speed feedback" signs which will inform drivers how fast they are going before they enter the safety zone, Pulsipher said. The department will use the signs to collect data on the speeding habits of drivers in a particular area.
Pulsipher said he does not know if feedback signs would be installed on Higgins and on Lawrence but that they will installed in front of the nearby Jefferson Park CTA terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave. Funds for a feedback sign on Higgins was included in the initial budget for the project.
It also was reported that at the approximately 10 locations where the cameras have been installed, the city for unknown reasons has not begun issuing any $35 citations, which are for motorists driving 6 to 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Drivers caught traveling more than 10 miles per hour over the limit are being issued $100 citations.
At each camera location, violators will be issued warnings for the first 30 days, and after that period of time, violators will receive a warning for their first offense unless they had received a warning during the first 30 days. The fees collected by the city will be used for safety improvements around the parks and schools where the cameras are located.
The cameras near Jefferson Park will be in effect from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day of the week. The speed limit is 25 miles per hour on Higgins and 30 miles per hour on Lawrence. A department study showed that four out of 100 vehicles were found traveling at least 6 miles per hour over the speed limit near the park.
Other Northwest Side camera locations are near Sauganash School, 6040 N. Kilpatrick Ave., Portage Park, 4100 N. Long Ave., and Merrimac Park, 6343 W. Irving Park Road. Cameras located near schools will have shorter operating hours than those near parks.
The $35 and $100 tickets will not be reported to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office as a moving violation. Pulsipher said that the citations are similar to a parking ticket.