Daily Herald opinion: Yes, this Great Western Trail crossing needs to be made safer

The Great Western Trail crossing at County Farm Road indeed does need to be made safer

  • Bridges were installed a decade ago over St. Charles Road and Grace Street in Lombard. It's one way to make the Great Western Trail safer.

    Bridges were installed a decade ago over St. Charles Road and Grace Street in Lombard. It's one way to make the Great Western Trail safer. Daily Herald file photo

 
By the Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 8/10/2022 6:26 AM
This editorial is the consensus opinon of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

The Great Western Trail and the Illinois Prairie Path through DuPage County is a remarkable system that can take you from suburb to suburb with long stretches of peaceful forest in between each one. Unfortunately, there also are busy roads in the way. It's one reason we have said in our periodic bike trail listings that you should be careful, especially with children, on these trails.

The Friends of the Great Western Trails, a community group, is calling for a solution to one especially dangerous crossing: the Great Western Trail at County Farm Road in Winfield.

 

We know what they mean. You can be riding along the trail, endorphins flowing as you let go of your stress or as you're just enjoying the nature, and suddenly, with no gates or fence or barricade or anything but a little sign, you're at the curb along four-lane County Farm Road, and heaven forbid it's rush hour. You'd better be paying attention.

Riders and walkers actually must cross several streets on the Great Western Trail and Illinois Prairie Path. Many are not too bad, like neighborhood side streets or otherwise less-busy thoroughfares (you still must look both ways). But County Farm Road takes the traffic up a notch, with vehicles zooming at 45 mph, if that slow, in both directions.

Overhanging signs and a crosswalk do note the trail crossing, but there's no requirement to stop nor even a flashing light to encourage stopping.

A DuPage County Board member, Greg Schwarze, has put forth an idea: Install a traffic light just a couple hundred feet south on County Farm Road at Timber Creek Drive/Hawthorne Lane. The idea is to slow down traffic, as well as provide a safe way for cyclists and pedestrians to cross.

Other solutions have been proposed -- some that are actually used elsewhere on the trail system: a beacon or flashing light, a median that serves as a pedestrian safety island, even an overpass. An overpass would be ideal, but we know it would cost at least a couple million dollars; Lombard spent as much as $6 million a decade ago for Great Western Trail bridges over Grace Street and St. Charles Road. (Lombard, incidentally, has a pedestrian safety island and a beacon at the Illinois Prairie Path's intersection with Main Street.)

We also know another traffic light on County Farm Road can inhibit traffic flow. But we also hear people have been hurt at this crossing. And we remember how a cyclist was killed at another trail's intersection with a busy road, off Busse Woods just east of the Schaumburg border, before a bridge was built over Higgins Road there.

So we call for some measure to make this crossing safer. (And while we're at it, we see the same problem at the Great Western Trail crossing at Bloomingdale Road.) At the very least, a flashing beacon would be helpful as we've seen elsewhere in the suburbs, if not the traffic light. Anything before more people flock to this pretty trail in the fall and risk getting seriously hurt.

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