Expected to open to vehicles as scheduled on Dec. 15, the $30 million Red Gate Road Bridge over the Fox River eventually is estimated to see traffic of 15,000 vehicles a day and ease congestion on the Main Street Bridge in downtown St. Charles.
The more immediate concern for city and school district officials, however, is how the pending bridge opening will affect congestion at St. Charles North High School, particularly in the early mornings, when the morning rush to work combines with the rush to school.
City officials on Monday told the St. Charles City Council Government Services Committee that they have been in talks with Community Unit School District 303 about possible solutions to existing congestion at the school’s main entrance on Red Gate Road, where traffic into the school frequently backs up in both east- and westbound lanes.
St. Charles Public Works Director Mark Koenen and Police Chief James Lamkin outlined the issues to the City Council committee — that the city and St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 officials already are working to resolve congestion at the high school’s main entrance on the south side of Red Gate Road and opposite from River Ridge Drive. That road serves Rivers Edge and The Reserves of St. Charles, two residential neighborhoods.
Koenen said the morning rush presents the greatest congestion, with traffic heading to the high school’s main parking lot entrance backing up in both directions on Red Gate Road. He said the city and school district have been exploring options to address that for the past year.
One step the city took this summer to ease the situation — in anticipation of the bridge’s opening — was to restripe the pavement on Red Gate to better direct traffic. In conjunction with that, Koenen said, District 303 reconfigure its parking lot layout to improve traffic flow through the lot.
“People get into that lot now more fluidly … more quickly, and you have a little less traffic stacking (backing up) on Red Gate Road,” Koenen told the Government Services Committee.
The vehicle “stacking” continues to be an issue, especially in the mornings when students are arriving at school, he said. That creates backups in the westbound lane, and greater backups in the eastbound lane. “We believe when the Red Gate Bridge is opened, that stacking is still going to exist,” Koenen said.
Lamkin said that, as a result of the stacking, traffic movement has adjusted — drivers generally are treating the high school entrance as a four-way stop. Ultimately, according to the executive summary of their report to the council committee, Lamkin and Koenen said the city plans to install traffic signals on Red Gate Road at the entrance to St. Charles North and River Ridge Drive, as well as an eastbound right-turn lane along Red Gate Road serving the high school. Koenen said the cost would be shared with District 303. The plan is to complete the work before the start of the 2013-14 school year.
In the meantime, however, Lamkin and Koenen are recommending some changes to ease the traffic flow in the area, and to redirect some of that traffic elsewhere, once the bridge opens on Dec. 15. The steps include:
A temporary restriction on school days only between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. prohibiting southbound vehicles along River Ridge Drive between Red Gate Road and River View Drive.
Police presence to assist with traffic management at Red Gate Road and St. Charles North’s entrance/River Ridge Drive.
Informational signs at Route 31 and Reserve Drive indicating there is no through access to Red Gate Road between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. on school days.
Informational signs will be posted at River View and River Ridge drives on or before Dec. 7, 2012, alerting motorists of the school day street restriction to start on Dec. 17, 2012.
Red Gate Road bridge is scheduled to open to vehicles on Dec. 15. Koenen said the pedestrian bridge, however, is not scheduled to open until the spring.