Crashes drive push for stoplight at Prairie Ridge High School

McHenry County Board member-driven parent survey shows interest

The intersection of Dvorak Drive and Walkup Road outside Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, pictured Thursday, March 31, 2022, is within a high crash site, with several officials and parents saying there should be a stoplight placed at the spot.

A stoplight could eventually be installed at an intersection near Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake after some officials expressed concerns over student safety at the spot.

The intersection in question, Walkup Road and Dvorak Drive, has been prone to multiple traffic crashes over the years and is a vital intersection for staff and students leaving and entering the school.

While the issue has drawn ire and complaints for years, there’s a good chance a stoplight won’t be installed until at least next year at the earliest, officials said.

The effort has been spearheaded by McHenry County Board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, who said she’s had discussions about the intersection even before being elected in 2018. While the area is a designated school zone, requiring cars to go 20 mph, many don’t follow it, she said.

“Sometimes the [school resource officer] is directing traffic, which really helps,” Wegener said. “But you have inexperienced drivers trying to make a left or a right in traffic and that can get really dangerous.”

Complaints she’s received, as well as surveys she’s sent out, show a similar concern among those involved with Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155, which includes Prairie Ridge.

To help gather more information, Wegener sent out a survey to both District 155 and Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 to see what teachers, students and parents thought about the intersection.

Across 400 responses, Wegener said between 75% and 80% of responses said they were either “very” or “extremely” concerned about student safety at the intersection, expressing interest in a traffic light being installed.

Data she cited shows that from 2014 to 2018, 67 traffic crashes took place at the intersection. No deaths or hospitalizations have occurred to her knowledge, Wegener said.

McHenry County Sheriff’s Office data shows three crashes with property damage at the intersection since the beginning of 2020, Deputy Kevin Byrnes said in an email.

That area in general, along Walkup Road from Hillside Road north to Mason Hill Road, has been designated as a high crash area, he said. Dating back to the start of 2020, 34 crashes, 10 involving injury, have occurred in that greater area, he said.

While they’ve received complaints about the area, the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t received one so far this year, he said.

The intersection of Dvorak Drive and Walkup Road outside Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, pictured Thursday, March 31, 2022, is within a high crash site, with several officials and parents saying there should be a stoplight placed at the spot.

The item is slated to be discussed for the first time at the County Board’s April 27 transportation committee meeting, Wegener said. She has spoken with Nunda Township, District 155, the city of Crystal Lake, and other members in her district on the County Board, all of whom she said are interested in a traffic light being installed.

Troy Stinger, District 155′s director of operations, told the Northwest Herald Monday in an email that the district has had initial conversations with Wegener and expects to continue those discussions with its school board.

“We want to be involved any time there are discussions about how to improve safety for our students, staff, and families,” Stinger said.

It may take a while until a change is made, Wegener said. After it’s discussed later this month, it would need to be included on the county’s budget. That means it won’t appear until next fiscal year, which doesn’t start until December, she said.

One potential option is the federal funds made available to the county through the American Rescue Plan Act, she said. If the expense falls into those parameters, she said she will advocate for it. If that isn’t an option, the issue could be handed off to a new board, which will be seated after November’s general election.

“My main goal is student safety and even if I’m not reelected in November, I’m still going to fight for this,” Wegener said.