When another driver blew the stop sign at the intersection of Lowell Park and Pines roads, Polo resident Marcia Dewey had a moment to react.
But it wasn’t enough time to avoid a collision.
“I was in critical condition and am still on the road to recovery today,” she said, 50 weeks after the crash.
It’s an intersection with a long history of grief — according to testimony from surviving families and a study done by the Ogle County engineer.
July 5 will mark 50 years since a crash at the intersection claimed the life of Kathleen Brooks while her daughter Becky barely survived.
Sue Ramage, who is Brooks’ sister, remembers.
“She was 22 years old. She had her 2-year-old daughter with her,” Ramage said. “Someone came upon the accident and pulled Becky out of the car and did CPR on her to save her life before the ambulance got there. But my sister was killed instantly.”
Trisha Richards’ father, Terry E. Richards, was killed on July 31, 2021, while riding his motorcycle on Pines Road after another driver traveling on Lowell Park Road failed to yield.
“He did not have any time to swerve and the car ran right into him,” Trisha Richards said. “He was flown to Rockford where he later died that evening.”
On May 17, Dewey, Ramage and Richards asked Ogle County Board members to make changes to the Lowell Park and Pines roads intersection.
Their comments were made prior to the presentation of a traffic study done by County Engineer Jeremy Ciesiel.
According to Ciesiel’s in-house research, 21 crashes took place at the intersection from Jan. 1, 2009, to April 30, 2022. Sixteen involved drivers on Lowell Park Road who either did not obey the stop signs or failed to yield to Pine Roads traffic even after stopping.
“I didn’t realize how many of the crashes were people on Lowell Park Road that didn’t even stop,” Ciesiel said, referring to an analysis of crash reports. “The fact that we had six or so crashes that didn’t even stop or slow down, it’s hard to fight against.”
He obtained the crash reports from the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Safety Portal. Usually, these kinds of studies look at data from the previous five years, but Ciesiel said he went as far back as the database allowed because “I wanted to take advantage of all the information we possibly could get.”
The engineering department gathered current traffic data last October using some recently purchased monitoring equipment. The process of gathering data from the Pines and Lowell Park intersection was delayed because he and staff still were learning to use the equipment and were running tests in various locations, Ciesiel said.
As a result of the study, there are steps Ciesiel and his department already are taking.
Solar-powered LED enhanced stop signs have been ordered for both the north and south legs of Lowell Park Road, Ciesiel said. They cost about $2,000 each — a price which will come out of the department’s annual sign budget — and will be installed upon delivery, he said.
Ciesiel also has contacted ComEd about the possibility of installing a suspended flashing beacon at the center of the intersection. That project would cost an estimated $10,000 to $15,000, he said.
While he normally wouldn’t need to involve ComEd in such a decision, there power lines cross several legs of the intersection. Part of the beacon’s suspension system would need to be affixed to a ComEd pole, Ciesiel explained.
“All of our stoplights are now in the middle of the roadway on an arm or strung across a lane of traffic,” he said. “They’re a lot more effective, I think. In the middle of the roadway, it would be more visible to the public. At least six vehicles have missed the stop signs we have currently. Anything we can do to grab the attention of drivers, we need to do.”
The option of adding rumble strips to Lowell Park Road is another thing Ciesiel is looking at, but that requires speaking to residents living within 250 feet because of the noise they cause.
Dewey said she brought signed petitions from those residents saying they were OK with rumble strips being added and that they are aware of the noise factor. She also had other petitions with more than 200 total signatures asking that the rumble strips be put in on Lowell Park Road.
That likely will make things easier, Ciesiel noted.
There are multiple reasons they are not currently looking to make the intersection a four-way stop, he said. The first reason is that it’s hard to get drivers to break the habit of going straight through an intersection where there never has been a stop, especially if it’s an older road like Pines Road.
Another, less pressing factor, is ensuring the efficient movement of traffic, Ciesiel said. Still, safety is the priority, he said.
That’s part of why he requested IDOT’s Bureau of Safety Programs and Engineering to conduct a roadside safety review of the intersection. That is underway, Ciesiel said.
“I want a four-way stop, rumble strips, anything to get people to slow down,” Ramage said. “They might save their own life, or they might save the life of any of your loved ones here. Because it’s dangerous and it’s been dangerous for 50 years. So please, consider making changes.”