Homewood officials and residents discussed potential safety measures at Tuesday’s village board meeting after a fatal traffic accident last week.
Dominique Wood, 19, of Merrillville, Indiana, died after a July 22 accident near the intersection of 183rd Street and Center Avenue.
Daniel Berk, a Homewood resident who lives near the site of the accident, started an online petition at change.org to ask the village to install a traffic light at the intersection. The petition had over 7,900 signatures on Wednesday morning.
Berk and other supporters of the measure attended Tuesday’s meeting. He thanked village officials for the work that’s already begun to make the area safer.
“I know that you guys aren’t turning a deaf ear and a blind eye,” Berk said. “I’m simply asking on behalf of myself, my wife and the almost 8,000 people who have signed, not only to have a solution for that intersection specifically but to consider future solutions for the speeding on 183rd.”
Police Chief Bill Alcott said the department increased patrols on 183rd Street on July 14, leading to 161 traffic stops over two weeks.
“We can’t catch everybody,” he said. “We’re out there every day.”
Director of Public Works John Schaefer said the village is gathering accident information from the past five years at the intersection and will talk to the Illinois Department of Transportation to determine if that agency needs to be consulted before changes are made.
“We’re also going to take a look at the intersection alignment to determine if that would need to be realigned if there is any type of traffic control put at that intersection,” Schaefer said. “We’d also have to see if we have enough right of way, currently, in that area to do any type of traffic control that’s permanent. We’re going to look at all the options.”
Schaefer said public works is already looking at improving the sight lines at the intersection to give drivers a better view of oncoming traffic when turning.
“I have held my breath and crossed that path many times,” Trustee Barbara Dawkins said. “It really is a dangerous intersection.”
The rest of the board offered similar comments. Trustee Jay Heiferman said the village should do more to identify potentially dangerous areas until infrastructure upgrades could be made.
“Despite that a couple weeks ago we did increase the efforts to patrol 183rd Street and increase enforcement, I really think we could double it from there and I’d like to know why we can’t, if we can’t,” he said. “It’s not a bad thing to systematically build a reputation, for residents and visitors, that we take traffic enforcement seriously. If that becomes our reputation, we’ll all be safer.”
Alcott also addressed an emailed public comment from Linda Crabtree that was read into the record. The board is allowing email comments while it meets via Zoom due to the coronavirus.
Crabtree asked for traffic lights or speed bumps near Willow School. She said parents often speed after dropping off kids in the morning.
“We’re taking every possible initiative that we can,” Alcott said. “We’re at every school at pick up and drop off time. Sometimes the parents are the worst offenders.”
Berk told the board that if a few things had gone differently on July 22, the accident may have resulted in more deaths.
“I don’t know the solutions. I’m not blaming anyone,” he said. “Please consider taking action quickly before another life is lost.”