Could Route 31 go from 4 lanes to 3 in Batavia? It could reduce crashes, increase wait times

  • Susan Sarkauskas/ssarkauskas@dailyherald.com, 2018City officials are asking the Illinois Department of Transportation to consider reducing Batavia Avenue (Route 31) to three lanes throughout Batavia.

    Susan Sarkauskas/ssarkauskas@dailyherald.com, 2018City officials are asking the Illinois Department of Transportation to consider reducing Batavia Avenue (Route 31) to three lanes throughout Batavia.

 
 
Updated 4/19/2022 6:34 AM

Reducing Batavia Avenue (Route 31) from four lanes to three lanes as it passes through Batavia could reduce crashes by 20% to 50%, according to a feasibility study done for the city.

But it could also increase the backups for northbound and southbound traffic at traffic lights at Wilson Street and Main Street, according to Matt Baldwin, a consultant with TranSystems Corp., which did the study.

 

Batavia aldermen reviewed two design choices for a "road diet" during a committee meeting last week. The study was to determine whether the proposal was at all feasible.

The first option would reduce the lanes from south of Fabyan Parkway through town to Mooseheart Road.

The other is to keep the stretch from Wilson to Main four lanes, which could keep traffic from backing up.

City Engineer Rahat Bari said the Illinois Department of Transportation must decide if and how the change should happen because it is a state highway. But IDOT officials seem open to the idea if it doesn't interfere too much with traffic flow, according to Bari.

Baldwin analyzed 108 reported vehicle crashes that happened over five years, 2016-2020, on Batavia Avenue. About 85% of the crashes were either rear-end collisions or due to turns, he said. There were no fatal crashes.

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Having a center turn lane should reduce those crashes, Baldwin said.

Wait times on Wilson would probably increase because IDOT would likely shorten those green-light times and lengthen the times for Batavia Avenue.

"IDOT will always give preferential treatment to Route 31," Baldwin said.

Bari told the council that the city recently got IDOT to adjust traffic signals on Wilson to move traffic through the downtown more quickly, especially around 2:40 p.m., when school buses from Batavia High and Rotolo Middle schools use Wilson to cross the Fox River. The timing change shaved 3 to 4 minutes off the crosstown journey, he said.

But if the road diet is implemented, it might take three or four cycles for traffic to get through, he said.

The road's speed limits range from 30 to 45 mph. Alderman Alan Wolff suggested that in addition to asking permission for the lane reduction, the city also ask IDOT to establish one consistent speed limit for the stretch.

Alderman Mark Uher, who lives on Batavia Avenue, said he uses side streets such as Houston Street when he travels to the west side of town if he sees a red light at Wilson. He asked if the study showed how the side streets west of Batavia Avenue would be affected by such cut-through traffic due to long lines at the signals. Baldwin said that would be included in subsequent studies.

Buri and Baldwin will present the study to IDOT.

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