City crews install berm at Naperville family’s backyard to keep vehicles from crashing into it: ‘I’m not worried anymore’


Four months ago, the anxiety that a vehicle would fly through the back fence of Kendall Daly’s south Naperville home kept the 13-year-old up at night.

But now, she can sleep easy knowing there’s a berm some 3 feet high keeping the unwanted “visitors” out of her family’s yard.

“I’m not worried anymore,” she told the Naperville Sun Tuesday.

For years, the Daly family had been dealing with an unusual — and unnerving — quirk of their house. More often than one would think possible, vehicles going through the busy T-intersection near Washington Street and Naper Boulevard, which runs right up against the Dalys’ property, would crash into the family’s backyard.

Over 10 and a half years, six different vehicles drove through their fence — the four most recent ones happening within a span of 31 months, according to the Dalys and city of Naperville staff. Factors that city staff have previously pointed to as contributing to the crashes include time of day, weather and driver impairment.

As the incidences persisted, frustration mounted for the family, they said, while the city tried to figure out what could be done to prevent them. City staff, though, were reportedly at a loss for solutions, barring a possible — and costly –- reconstruction of the Washington and Naper intersection.

That is, until February, when staff from Naperville’s Public Works, and Transportation, Engineering and Development departments put their heads together and realized they had an idea that could offer a solution: build a berm — a raised but natural-looking barrier of sorts.

The staffers felt the berm could keep vehicles from crashing into the Dalys’ backyard. It was installed and, it turns out, they were right.

Earlier this month, a vehicle did indeed veer off towards the Dalys’ property. But this time, it had the berm to contend with. The barrier did its job, keeping the backyard behind it untouched through the accident, both city staff and the Dalys say.

“At first, I was worried it wasn’t going to work. … But when (a vehicle ) did crash into the berm, none of us even knew,” Kendall Daly said.

“I honestly can’t believe the city did this,” Ryan Daly, Kendall’s dad, added. “It totally works.”

Before the berm went up, Ryan Daly wasn’t entirely sold on it. Back when the city first approached him with the idea, he “couldn’t envision it at all,” he said. He and his family had seen several attempted fixes fall short of expectations.

In recent years, the city tried a few primarily aesthetic countermeasures to help manage traffic more, including better signage, enhanced traffic signals and reflective pavement markers. But with all of those precautions in place, a vehicle still made it into the Daly’s backyard.

Ryan Daly, however, was ready to try anything if it gave him and his family a shot at keeping their fence intact, he said. He’s thrilled the berm seems to be the answer he’d been looking for.

“To have somebody crash into it a few weeks ago and not have any damage was so reassuring,” he said.

The berm came at no cost to the Dalys, according to Bill Novack, director of the city’s TED Department.

From the street, the new addition looks like a small but relatively steep hill lined with large slabs of stone and small plants. The berm is composed of different kinds of fill material. Staff consciously made the top of the berm out of more absorbent material — sand or pea gravel — so that it could weather the impact of any potential crashes, Novack said.

Novack said that initially, he didn’t think a berm was feasible. But at the urging of Public Works Director Dick Dublinski, Novack reassessed.

“Dick challenged me to think otherwise,” Novack said.

The alternative was installing a roundabout at the Washington and Naper intersection, officials said. The city had intended to start a feasibility study for the project, which staff expected from the beginning would have taken years and upwards of $5 million to complete, but changed course when the berm option started to seem viable.

A roundabout at the intersection is now off the table, Novack said.

“It’s always great and very satisfying to identify a solution that works,” he added.

Ryan Daly echoed Novack’s satisfaction.

“I’m telling you, it was just a great experience of (working with) the city,” Daly said. “I want to have them all over for a beer to thank them.”

tkenny@chicagotribune.com



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