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Waukegan bans stopping, standing, parking on Lewis Avenue near schools

Z.P. Miller Waukegan stops traffic Lewis Avenue help Thomas JeffersMiddle School students get across Wednesday Feb. 5. | Dan Moran/Sun-Times

Z.P. Miller of Waukegan stops traffic on Lewis Avenue to help Thomas Jefferson Middle School students get across on Wednesday, Feb. 5. | Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 7, 2014 1:43PM

Traffic on Lewis Avenue, one of Waukegan’s primary north-south roadways, has always been a challenge on school days from vehicles generated by both Thomas Jefferson Middle School south of Belvidere Road and Whitter Elementary near Grand Avenue.

With the challenges increased by more children being dropped off and picked up on cold winter days, the City Council approved a request this week from the Waukegan Police Department to ban stopping, standing or parking of vehicles on both sides of Lewis near Jefferson.

“We’ve had parents dropping off students to cross the street, causing traffic traveling on northbound Lewis Avenue to be completely blocked,” 2nd Ward Ald. Thomas Koncan Jr. reported to the Public Safety Committee on Monday, Feb. 3.

“People on southbound Lewis were also observed stopping along the curb to let children out of their vehicles, causing obstruction of the traffic lane,” Koncan added. “The police department is requesting that both directions on Lewis Avenue from Belvidere to Dugdale be posted as no stopping, standing or parking.”

There was no argument from officials at the Waukegan Public School District, who acknowledged that they have been made aware of the problem.

“That is something the school district has talked to the city about to see what could be done to stop parents from doing that,” spokesman Nicholas Alajakis said on Wednesday, Feb. 5. “We sent letters home to remind parents that they can’t stop on the street to drop off students, and we’ve had (school officials) outside more often to remind them, as well.”

Nelson Campos, assistant principal at Jefferson, said more than 50 percent of the school’s 950 students are not provided with bus service, meaning they either walk to and from class or get rides from parents.

Campos added that he has seen more vehicles dropping students off at the curb on both sides of Lewis in recent weeks, requiring him and other employees to stand outside and make sure vehicles are following the rules.

“In the morning, I’m stationed right there,” he said, pointing to a lane that is reserved for bus traffic. “Basically, that’s what I do during the winter.”

The new regulations on Lewis mark the second time this school year that the city has revised its parking regulations to address traffic around a school during drop-off and pick-up times. In October, the council banned parking during hours of operation at Little Fort Elementary School on surrounding streets that include Blanchard Road, Dickinson Street and Elmwood Avenue.

Alajakis said the district is also looking to deploy its own measures to increase safety for pedestrians around school zones, particularly those on major roadways. The district purchased portable “school crossing” signs with flashing blue lights that have been set up this week outside both Jefferson and Whittier.

“Those sites were determined to be most necessary due to the amount of traffic on Lewis Avenue,” Alajakis said. “Lewis is obviously a major, busy road, so we hope to be able to slow down the traffic and make drivers more alert that they are driving near a school.”

In addition, the district purchased portable signs warning drivers to stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk, and two each will be placed on Lewis in the middle of the roadway on the north and south ends of the Jefferson and Whittier school zones.

Though the signs will start out in those locations, the district has announced plans to use them in the future near Glen Flora Elementary School, which sits east of Jackson Street near Ridgeland Avenue.

Also at Monday’s City Council meeting, Police Chief Wayne Walles told aldermen that his office has fielded a request from the school district to install a dedicated crosswalk on Lewis to Jefferson. While the parking restrictions were approved by a unanimous council vote, the crosswalk request will work its way through the system.

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