Changing streetscape? Traffic flow could change in downtown in Naperville

Jefferson Avenue in Naperville, looking east from Main Street. |  Susan Frick Carlman~Sun-Times Media
Jefferson Avenue in Naperville, looking east from Main Street. | Susan Frick Carlman~Sun-Times Media

Traffic flow in downtown Naperville soon could be altered in a new way on certain nights.

Officials have begun discussing the prospect of blocking off a block of Jefferson Avenue late at night on evenings when bar business is brisk.

City Councilman Paul Hinterlong said police who walk the beat in that part of town have asked him to look into closing off the road to motorists from Main Street to Washington Street, beginning perhaps at 11 p.m. or midnight, on Friday and Saturday nights.

“It’s just very cluttered up there. It’s kind of a narrow street, and you’ve got cars going through there and taxis trying to pick people up,” Hinterlong said Wednesday. “It’s just chaos there, especially if something breaks out.”

The temporary weekly roadblock idea isn’t new.

“We’ve talked about it for years,” said Jim Bergeron, owner of the Wise Boxer Pour House, which fronts that stretch of Jefferson, and former longtime chairman of the Downtown Advisory Commission. “The concern that everybody has is, because those sidewalks are bumped out for the nice walkways, when you put cars there, along with cabs, if you need to get any kind of emergency equipment down there it’s really, really tough.”

Late-night crowds in the city core tend to grow larger when the weather warms up and students come home from college for the summer. Hinterlong thinks that makes this a particularly appropriate time to revisit the possibility, seeing few drawbacks to the proposal.

“There’s little or no parking available anyway, because of the cab stands,” he said. “Now, with the college kids back, there’s a good chance things will pick up down there, so it’s a good time to take a look at it and see what we can do.”

Police Chief Bob Marshall said he added more weekend night patrol officers the weekend of June 13-15, again reassigning school resource officers who are off that duty for the summer. He said he has consulted with some of those officers for guidance.

“I’ve asked them to provide me with a recommendation on what hours would be most advantageous … specifically on Jefferson,” Marshall said.

Bergeron is open to discussing the possibility anew. He said alternatives such as designating one side of the street for cabs are worth considering, noting that unlike a parked car, a taxi driver can be asked to move to make way for an ambulance or fire truck. Some steps already have been taken to ease the flow, he noted, such as establishing loading zones that allow only a few minutes’ parking time at key spots.

“Heaven forbid if you need to get a fire truck or an ambulance down that block and you can’t,” Bergeron said. “I’m not opposed to a plan that’s well thought-out and takes those things into account and doesn’t interfere with business for the stores along there.”

Hinterlong, who said the suggestion most recently resurfaced about six months ago, sees room for discussion.

“If it helps with enforcement there and keep things orderly,” he said, “why wouldn’t we take a look at it?”

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