DeKALB – Don Faulhaber was one of about 25 DeKalb County residents who showed up to tell DeKalb County Highway Committee members about harrowing traffic experiences they’ve had on Plank Road.
The group that showed up to the Thursday meeting considers the boomerang shaped 2.25-mile road between Moose Range Road, which is north of Sycamore, and Lukens Road, which is west of Burlington, unsafe.
Faulhaber, who is a DeKalb firefighter and paramedic, lives with his family off Devine Way, which intersects with Plank Road.
Faulhaber has driving rules for his son Sam, 16. Sam just got his driver’s license.
“Turn your signal on way ahead of time,” Faulhaber said. “When he stops out at our subdivision entrance, he has to watch the rearview mirror.”
Faulhaber said when he’s at work and he sees someone around Sam’s age, he can’t help but think of his son. He said he’s helpless at work when he hears about a crash on Moose Range Road, Devine Way or Plank Road.
“It makes your heart stop,” he said.
Faulhaber said he always has to make a call in order to make sure it’s not his son and to quell his nerves.
Julie Weingarz, who also lives off Plank Road, organized a petition that 160 neighbors down Plank Road have signed as of Thursday.
The petition requests a restriping of the yellow line on Plank Road from the south edge of Moose Range Road eastward to beyond the S-curve east of Lukens Road with a double, solid yellow stripe to indicate a ‘No Passing Zone.’
Weingarz’s petition also serves as a request there be No Passing signs along the stretch of road and that the speed limit through that stretch be limited to 45 mph.
She said in the 13 years she’s lived on Gerry Lane, which intersects with Plank Road, she’s had some close calls, and they aren’t isolated incidents.
“The aggressive driving, dangerous passing and speeding on Plank Road have increased significantly over that time to the point of becoming a public health issue,” Weingarz said.
She described one of the close calls she’s experienced within the area.
"Just last Friday at 5:20 p.m., a very busy time on Plank, I was heading west and crossed the DeKalb County line when I was cut off by a person just before the S-curve," she said.
"That person passed at least three cars at one time when they passed me, and then went along to pass another six cars at one time just south of Moose Range Road."
Weingarz called on the highway committee to protect herself, her family and her neighbors.
“People’s judgment cannot be relied upon to keep the road safe,” she said. “People either don’t know or don’t care that passing at an intersection is against the law. The sheriff’s department has tried to step up patrols but doesn’t have the staff to adequately monitor the road.
“The Highway Department and County Board have the duty and ability and authority to improve the safety of the road for all of us who use it.”
Faulhaber mentioned how the petition doesn’t ask for much and how it shouldn’t cost much to fulfill his and his neighbors’ wants.
“The striping isn’t going to cost too much,” he said. “A couple extra signs not too much. I don’t think we’re asking for too much here.”
Faulhaber said some of the passing zones are dangerous.
“In between Moose Range and the entrance to Devine Way, everybody looks at that as an opportunity to pass, even when it’s not safe,” he said. “If you put a double yellow line in there, you could stop probably a great number of potential accidents there with just double-striping that part.”
Nathan Schwartz, DeKalb County Highway engineer, said he understands the safety concerns. He said he and his staff are willing to listen to anybody who calls, writes or makes an appointment to talk about a road safety issue, but currently there’s not enough data to make more changes.
“I strive to make those stretches safer,” he said.
Schwartz said a lot of the close calls residents talk about don’t get reported. When the crashes or close calls are not reported, it’s difficult to include them in the analysis that goes into determining which roads are unsafe.
He also said he knows there are a lot of people who are in a hurry, and sometimes people make bad decisions.
“It only takes one bad apple to ruin the bunch,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said that he ultimately would like to realign Plank Road, but that needs almost $6 million in grant funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation. He said IDOT suggested to see whether it works before any major changes such as the Plank Road realignment.
Although he said making road safety changes can be difficult, some minor changes made to Plank Road include a repaved road, a slope correction, a brand new surface, regraded ditches and a shoulder both paved and 4 feet wider.
“Unfortunately, some drivers are willing to drive recklessly in order to save a little bit of time in their commute,” Schwartz said.