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Traffic Around Courtenay School Frustrating Some Uptown Residents

By Adeshina Emmanuel | February 20, 2014 9:59am
 Chicago Public Schools is responding to Uptown residents' concerns about traffic jams around Mary E. Courtenay Elementary School.
Traffic Around Courtenay School Frustrating Some Uptown Residents
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UPTOWN — Frustrated residents are calling for changes to alleviate traffic congestion around Mary E. Courtenay School where enrollment increased from about 450 students to 620 after a merger last year.

Uptown resident Debra Hinze and other locals have urged Ald. James Cappleman (46th) to ask the city to make North Beacon Avenue a one-way street going south near the school at 4420 N. Beacon Ave.

"The amount of traffic [both buses and cars] that need access to the school area every day creates nothing less than chaos," Hinze said in a post last week on the Beacon Block Club Facebook page where she solicited neighbors for their thoughts on the matter.

But out of nearly 30 comments posted in response to Hinze's post, most opposed the measure, finding it an unnecessary change.

Hinze did not respond to requests seeking comment. It was unclear what exact stretch of Beacon she wanted to become a one-way.

But other neighbors have suggested Courtenay establish a more efficient drop-off and pickup system and consider curb cutouts so buses can park without taking up so much of the street.

And others say the neighborhood should be able to endure a traffic problem that only occurs briefly during weekday mornings and afternoons, at the start and at the end of the school day.

On Beacon Avenue, school bus traffic is blamed for clogging things up from time to time, and most of the kids using the buses are special needs students, said Courtenay Local School Council chair Cassandra Vickas.

Most kids are dropped off and picked up in the back of the school, on North Dover Street, said Vickas, "so it's not car traffic, it's bus traffic" that causes most of the traffic problems neighbors have mentioned.

She emphasized that the LSC was open to neighbors' suggestions.

Beacon Block Club President Dustin Fogle told DNAinfo Chicago that "the vast majority of residents on Beacon are against changing Beacon to a one-way southbound." He feared "more traffic headaches" would be caused by such a change.

Malden, the street east of Beacon, is a dead end that cuts off at a pedestrian mall north of Montrose Avenue. North Dover Street, just west of Beacon Street, is already a one-way going south toward Montrose — and suffers from logjams most afternoons behind the school as parents wait in cars for their kids.

"I think coming up with a better way to load and unload buses at Courtenay, as well as finding a more efficient way to have parents drop off and pick up their children would be more beneficial to nearby residents," Fogle suggested.

Beacon Avenue resident Shaun Jacobsen worried that making Beacon Avenue a one-way street would "encourage people to speed on the street if there's not cars coming their way at the same time."

Tressa Feher, Cappleman's chief of staff, said the alderman had no stance on the one-way street idea and was waiting to hear from more residents about the issue.

"It's too early to even comment on it," Feher said.

She did say that the alderman's office had received general complaints about clogged traffic around the school since the Courtenay/Stockton merger.

"The school is aware that there have been some traffic issues since it became Courtenay," Feher said.

CPS said in a statement this week that it's working on a more efficient, safe drop-off system and other measures to address the traffic issue.

"We have engaged our CPS Security Network officer, along with CPD to develop a safe and sensible student drop-off system and will continue to work with the local community to address their concerns," CPS said in a statement.

CPS said it's working toward giving "drop-off permits" to parents at Courtenay who have to leave their cars to sign in preschool and kindergarten children, and is considering loading and unloading kids on buses along busy West Montrose Avenue, on the south side of the school building.

Though CPS said it was considering loading and unloading buses on Montrose Avenue, Vickas said, "We have enough buses, unfortunately, that some of them have to release on Montrose, which isn't even safe."

A CPS spokeswoman said officials were examining the prospect of bus loading and unloading on Montrose Avenue "with a keen eye for safety," although she didn't give any specific measures.