By Chuck Sweeny
Posted Sep. 19, 2016 at 5:40 PM
I shook my head in wonderment when I read about the two township governments in Boone County that were unable or unwilling to do much to make the dangerous intersection at Orth and Beloit roads safe, until a car hit a bus containing middle school students two weeks ago. Then the tune changed to, "By golly, we've got to do something!"
The crash was recorded by a resident's surveillance camera. The driver of the car, who was turning from Orth Road onto Beloit Road, was ticketed. The bus traveling on Beloit Road hit the car, spun out of control and landed on its side. Twelve people, including 10 children, were injured. Thankfully, no one died.
Since 2011 there have been 64 accidents at that crossing, in which traffic on Orth Road must stop while Beloit Road traffic sails through. This was a country crossing for many years, but it's getting busier and busier as the area develops. In 2015 alone there were 19 accidents. Yet that alarming number didn't provoke highway officials to make this a four-way stop.
Boone County Sheriff Dave Ernest considers that crossing to be Boone's most dangerous intersection, our story said. Yet only the horror of school children getting hurt stirred the governments of Caledonia and Belvidere townships to action. Other minor steps have been taken, including cutting back trees and shrubs, installing reflective tape and boosting police patrols.
Now, I want you to read the following paragraph, taken from the Register Star's news story reporting on the decision of Belvidere and Caledonia townships to make the crossing a four-way stop.
"(Belvidere Township Commissioner Rich) Lee said the four-way stop had been considered for about three to four months but it took time to get everyone together from different jurisdictions. The intersection is under the jurisdiction of Caledonia and Belvidere township road districts, with three legs of the crossroads belonging to Caledonia Township."
Time? What time did it need to take? We are not rebuilding the intersection or even installing traffic lights. We are just talking about a couple of aluminum stop signs and some red flags to put on top of them to let people know they're new. So why does it take months to get everyone together?
Here's a suggestion from the real, nongovernment world: One highway commissioner phones the other highway commissioner and says, "Hey, I think we'd better put up stop signs on Beloit Road at Orth." And the other highway commissioner says, "Yeah. You provide signs, and we'll put 'em in."
Chuck Sweeny: A four-way stop, finally, at Orth and Beloit roads, plus Nik's Home Run set
That would make sense, but we're talking about townships, the governments closest to the people. They are so close they're right under our noses, and you can't see anything that's right under your nose.Boone County is small in area and population. One combined highway department could easily handle all the roads and city streets, and it would save taxpayers money. Here's a road sign I'd like to see someone install in front of township, county and city buildings: "Start seeing taxpayers."Nik's Home RunEvery year at this time I give a shoutout to the fall event called Nik's Home Run. It's a fun day of physical activity that gets under way this year at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15, at Rockford Rivets Stadium, rain or shine.Nik's Home Run is a 7K race, a 1.5-mile fun walk and a silent auction. This is its fifth year.The event is a fundraiser put on by the Nikolas Ritschel Foundation, a nonprofit providing life enrichment opportunities (think vacations) for cancer patients 18 to 24. The fundraiser was inspired by the life of Nikolas Ritschel, a Rockford teen who received a diagnosis of synovial sarcoma, a rare cancer, a month before his 18th birthday. He died a month after his 21st birthday.Nik realized that many cancer patients in his age group were too old to take advantage of charities like "Make a Wish," which stops at age 18, and yet too young to have much of their own money. That's why this foundation was started in Nik's name by his mom.Interested in taking part? If you want to run the race, take the walk or contribute, learn more at nikolasritschelfoundation.org.Chuck Sweeny: 815-987-1366; firstname.lastname@example.org; @chucksweeny