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Naperville family asks for help after cars repeatedly crash into backyard: ‘It’s a tremendous amount of stress’

Tuesday night, as a cover of dense fog set in, Kendall Daly couldn’t help but check out her window. Once, twice.

Every few minutes, she looked. Visibility through the busy T-intersection at Washington Street and Naper Boulevard that borders her south Naperville house was low. It was hard not to worry that she’d again later wake up to a crack in her fence, an unwelcome alarm she knows all too well.

Over the last 31 months, four different cars have driven into Kendall’s backyard.

Kendall, 12, and her family are at a loss of how to fix the problem. The city has taken several steps to prevent the recurring crashes without success, so now more drastic mitigation measures, including construction of a $5 million roundabout, are under consideration.

The Dalys hope something will work, preferably sooner rather than later.

“It’s a tremendous amount of stress,” Ryan Daly, Kendall’s dad, said.

“She has really bad anxiety,” he said of his daughter. “Obviously, every time she hears it. And every time you kind of get up in the middle of the night and you’ll look. You’re just always paying attention to the back fence to see if it’s up.”

The Dalys have lived in Naperville for 15 years and in their house at Washington and Naper for the past 12. They love their home and neighborhood, Daly said. The only thing they don’t like, he said, is the risk of cars flying through their back fence.

The problem started within the first few years of their move to Washington and Naper, Daly said. At first, he didn’t think much of it.

“It was late,” he recalled. “It was a driver that didn’t stop. They crashed through the fence and then pulled out and drove off down the street. And I think at that point, you’re like, OK it happened once, right? What can I do?”

Then it happened again, he said. And again. Within the last 10 and a half years, six cars have gone through his fence, according to Daly and Naperville city staff.

By the third crash, Daly raised the issue with the city. He met with staff from Naperville’s transportation, engineering and development department.

In recent years, the city has tried a few, primarily aesthetic, countermeasures to better manage traffic: enhanced traffic signals, better signage, raised reflective pavement markers. City staff said they thought for a while that the measures had done the trick. But in December, there was another crash.

To date, Daly has spent about $20,000 on property repairs from the repeated incidents. Insurance will no longer help pay for the damages, he said.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that it continues to happen,” he said.

Last week, Daly went to the Naperville City Council to see if anything else could be done. He told council members that he and his family were at their wits’ end.

“I have dogs that are out at night that could get hurt and killed. … (There are) kids in the neighborhood whose parents will not allow their kids to come play in our backyard any longer because of the fear of one of these cars coming crashing through the backyard into our playset,” he said.

Elected leaders were sympathetic and, to some degree, alarmed by Daly’s concerns.

“To have that many serious crashes at this intersection in general really seems problematic to me so I’m hoping we can make some progress,” Councilman Patrick Kelly said.

“In my view,” Councilman Ian Holzhauer said, “we’re just waiting for some kind of tragedy to happen and what’s the price you put on a life?”

Members unanimously directed staff to look into the possibility of restructuring the Washington/Naper intersection into a roundabout.

“Public safety is our No. 1 goal here,” Councilwoman Jennier Bruzan Taylor said. “It’s our most important job. … I know the roundabout will take a lot of effort. It will take time. And I know it will take money, but at this point. … I think this is something that we do need to go forward on.”

Even if a roundabout were found to be doable, it would take years before construction would even being, according to Bill Novack, Naperville’s director of transportation, engineering and development.

A feasibility study alone will take 12 to 18 months, Novack said. From there, staff would need to tackle engineering, purchase additional property from nearby land owners and find funding for the multimillion-dollar endeavor.

All things considered, construction wouldn’t begin until 2032 at the soonest, Novack said.

“But we’ll continue to think of other options (in the meantime),” he said. “We’ll have an open mind.”

He added, “We’ve talked about many, many different things. But we also have to weigh them in with what are the impacts? What are the pros and cons of those different measures?”

Other options, such as guardrails or crash barrels, wouldn’t be appropriate solutions, Novack said.

“But we’ll continue,” he said.

Daly said he appreciates the city’s efforts but is wary whether his family will get their backyard back before they move away.

“You know, I hear $5 million for a roundabout and that sounds like a tremendous amount of money and a long time to get a problem fixed,” he said. “I think it’s a great idea for the people that are going to live here after us. … But (Kendall) has six years left until she’s out of high school.

“I don’t know what can be done in the meantime.”

tkenny@chicagotribune.com