Just one minute, Mr. President!
No. We’re not talking about Joe Biden and his vaccination mandate. This editorial is directed to Somers Village President George Stoner, who at a Sept. 7 Village Board work session meeting where a planned Sheridan Road/Highway 32 reconstruction was discussed, pooh-poohed the idea of sidewalks and bike lanes being added to the roadway as part of the 2025 project.
Stoner’s contention is that sidewalks would be costly and that property owners would be required to share in future maintenance costs for the walks. That is true. But more on that later.
The president also gave a cold shoulder to the idea of a line-painted bike lane being part of the highway’s future. He claimed it would create more problems than it would solve, but did not elaborate.
“I support milling and leaving it (the highway) the way it is,” Stoner said.
But safety improvements are in order for the highway between Carthage College on the south and the Mount Pleasant border on the north. According to statistics released at the meeting, that section of highway (also known as Sheridan Road) has been the site of eight vehicle-pedestrian crashes over the past decade with half of those being fatal.
And not mentioned in the Kenosha News report on the meeting were statistics about the number of vehicle-versus-vehicle crashes and vehicle versus fixed-object crashes, which we know have been numerous over the years.
A solution that state Department of Transportation officials are looking at to help offset vehicular crashes is center turn lanes. No doubt that will help a great deal for crashes in which simple driver error is the cause. They may or may not stem serious crashes that involve other factors, such as drinking and speeding, which also have been prevalent over the years.
But improvements are also needed to assist pedestrians and bicyclists. Highway 32 in Somers fronts a mish-mash of residential and commercial properties, with residences, apartment buildings and motels representing the vast majority of the properties. And those are going to generate pedestrians and bike riders.
President Stoner is absolutely right that concrete sidewalks are expensive. So might we suggest an asphalt path running alongside the highway? Kenosha County has recently installed such pathways along county highways E, S and KR and, as part of the county bike path extension from Petrifying Springs Park, along Highway 31 as well.
These paths allow a bit of land separation between the highways, providing a safer means of transportation for walkers, runners and bike riders.
True, there is not a lot of frontage along Sheridan Road, but even a narrower pathway close to the curb line is better than putting pedestrians directly on the highway.
Also noted by Somers officials on Sept. 7 is student pedestrian traffic traversing between Carthage on the east side of the road and the nearby Somers House tavern on the west side. Stoner suggested that a pedestrian overpass would provide a safe means for tavern patrons to cross the busy highway, but state officials said topography in the area would not allow for that. And the likelihood of additional traffic signals on Highway 32 between Highway E on the north and the Alford Park Drive/Sheridan Road intersection near Carthage are unlikely given the very short length of side streets connecting to Highway 32.
Perhaps, though, a flashing light, pedestrian-activated crosswalk signal might be an option at 17th Street and Sheridan? Speed limit reductions are also worth studying.
It’s still early in the planning process for the planned reconstruction of Highway 32. We urge state, county and village officials to keep safety foremost as they fine tune plans for the renovation and to study all options closely.