A friend from Nebraska had a business trip in Chicago recently, and my wife Karri and I had the opportunity to spend a few hours catching up with him.
It was the middle of the day on a Saturday so we offered to pick him up at the airport, catch a bite to eat and then drop him off at his hotel in downtown Chicago. We had a great time, but the part that sticks in my memory was the reaction of this Nebraskan to the driving habits he observed in the city of Chicago.
Since this was one of the few instances when I actually had time at my disposal, I was able to drive very casually in the city. As I approached one of the many intersections along Ohio Street, I noticed the cars ahead of me braking, and something in the back of my mind triggered. A great debate started occurring in my mind as I placed my foot on the brake pedal.
One side said, “Go ahead, the light was green when you entered the intersection. How were you to know that all of the cars ahead of you would stop and you would not be able to get all of the way through? Besides, this is a huge intersection, there is plenty of room.”
The other side countered, “What is the rush for? You have plenty of time, and you should be a considerate driver. Plus, if you get stuck in the intersection, you will block the north-south traffic from getting through.”
Several honks came from the black SUV behind me, puzzled why I would not enter the intersection on a green light. Well, that helped me make up my mind as I pushed harder on the brake pedal and smiled in my rearview mirror. The SUV maneuvered a hard left around me, entered the intersection on a red light, and promptly got stuck at the other end of the intersection, impeding the flow of the north-south traffic.
A minute later when our light turned green, I cruised through the intersection and pulled right up next to the black SUV that was no better off despite running a red light and blocking traffic. Our out-of-state friend could not believe the complete absence of driving etiquette and sense of entitlement that most of us drive around with even though it often gets us no further ahead.
Now comes the important point: we are embarking on the most difficult part of the Route 59 construction project from a traffic congestion perspective. Sections of the road will be narrowed down to one lane in each direction for most of the rest of this year as construction proceeds.
We will all feel the need to make up time and that we are entitled to enter that intersection while the light is green. You can do that, but if you cannot get all of the way through by the time the light turns red, you can get a $120 ticket for blocking the intersection.
You may think that blocking the intersection is not a big deal, unless you are one of the cars going the other way that cannot get through.
Obviously, north-south traffic will be really bad during the Route 59 construction. But the east-west traffic that crosses Route 59 will be almost as bad, since those lanes will also be reduced as part of the construction project. Don’t feel that you are entitled to block the intersection just because you are traveling on Route 59. Think about all of the drivers going east and west that you will be blocking and causing unnecessary delays.
The city of Naperville and the Illinois Department of Transportation have posted additional signs and changeable message boards at many of the Route 59 intersections reminding drivers not to block the intersection. Compliance with this simple law is essential for us to successfully get through this construction project that is scheduled to take us through 2015.
Finally, when driving, especially in the Route 59 construction zone, look ahead and consider whether you will be able to clear the intersection. Your little bit of caution and consideration will be extremely beneficial to the rest of us.
You can continue to stay informed on the Route 59 project by signing up for the eNews at www.naperville.il.us/enews.aspx and also by signing up for the community notification category, Traffic Alerts, in Naper Notify at www.napernotify.com. For more information on the Route 59 Expansion project, visit www.naperville.il.us/route59expansion.aspx.