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Stop pointing fingers and do better now

Thursday, Dec 8, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Block Club Chicago back in June

Over 300 people gathered Sunday on the North Side to push for better city infrastructure that protects bicyclists and pedestrians after drivers hit and killed toddlers Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas and Elizabeth “Lily” Grace Shambrook this month.

Families, elected officials and bike safety advocates gathered for the “Walk and Roll for Safe Streets” event organized by Better Streets Chicago and Chicago Family Biking. The group held moments of silence to honor Rafi and Lily, chalked messages on the streets to alert drivers to pedestrians and bicyclists, and marched from the Lincoln Square intersection in where Rafi was killed June 2, to the Uptown corner where Lily was killed Thursday.

* Leigh Giangreco at Stateline

This past June, [Peter Paquette] marched alongside hundreds of Chicagoans demanding safer streets following a spate of pedestrian deaths, including two toddlers killed by drivers in the same month. Later that day, Paquette joined Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, state representatives and Chicago aldermen for an early vote rally at O’Donovan’s, a nearby bar on Irving Park Road.

He never made it home.

Leaving the gathering at O’Donovan’s, Paquette and his wife were crossing Irving Park Road when a driver struck him in the middle of a marked crosswalk. He was thrown into the air, and though bystanders jumped in to help, he was pronounced dead a half hour after the accident, recalled Alderman Matt Martin, who represents the 47th Ward.

Local politicians and residents had flagged the four-lane state road, which bisects a residential neighborhood with three schools, two older adult living facilities and an L train station, as a hazard for pedestrians. In fact, Martin had pushed for safety improvements such as pedestrian refuge islands and curb extensions near the area where Paquette was struck.

But the Illinois Department of Transportation, citing state regulations, declined to make many of those improvements.

Emphasis added.

* This is ridiculous

Of the 30 sites with the most crashes in Chicago, all but one included a state road, according to Islam’s analysis. One state road, Stony Island, runs down the South Side of Chicago and counts two of its intersections, at 79th and 95th, among sites with the most crashes in the city. That danger isn’t surprising to Courtney Cobbs, co-founder of Better Streets Chicago.

“This has been known for decades,” Cobbs said. “And there has been no movement to change that, unfortunately.”

Her transit advocacy peers argue the Illinois Department of Transportation is not only slow to respond to pedestrian deaths but also is a huge barrier to any type of traffic safety improvements.

“A lot of these roadways are controlled by the state, and they have traditionally been much more backward-looking, honestly, in terms of the types of roadway improvement designs they’re willing to consider,” said Jim Merrell, managing director of advocacy for the Active Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit pedestrian and public transportation advocacy group.

Emphasis added.

* The more you read, the worse it gets

Even when pedestrian safety advocates have the support of local aldermen or the Chicago Department of Transportation, IDOT often is reluctant to approve of changes such as physical barriers between car traffic and pedestrians or bicyclists that could protect more vulnerable roadway users, he said. The current state law requires IDOT to give full consideration to bicycle and pedestrian ways in urban areas during a project’s planning phase; however, the IDOT secretary can make an exception for resurfacing projects or what might be deemed as safety issues, excessive cost or absence of need.

“We talk to IDOT all the time and have engaged with the secretary, with the local districts, with the General Assembly and the governor’s office, and it’s clear we have a really big structural issue with the state Department of Transportation and just how it’s set up,” Merrell said. “It’s not set up to build streets for the 21st century.”

Again, emphasis added.

* This, as always, is an issue of leadership, which appears to be sorely lacking at IDOT and CDOT

In Illinois, a major sticking point is that IDOT and the Chicago Department of Transportation fail to coordinate with each other, said Illinois state Rep. Kam Buckner, a Democrat who represents a district on the South Side of Chicago.

“What I usually hear is that CDOT says, ‘We can’t do anything because IDOT won’t, this is an IDOT space.’ And then they just leave it there,” Buckner said. “But if you ask IDOT, often they’ll say, ‘We’re happy to work together to figure it out if they ask us.’ The advocates are talking to both sides, but both sides aren’t talking to each other.”

Buckner is working on legislation for the upcoming legislative session that would lower speed limits in cities. Another bill would give municipal transportation agencies the ability to implement traffic calming and pedestrian safety work on state roads within a jurisdiction that has a population of more than 2 million people, he said. Buckner stressed that any new law would not only require buy-in from IDOT, but the city as well.

If the governor and the mayor made this issue a priority, there might not be a need for legislation.


  1. - Six Degrees of Separation - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:02 pm:

    One potential solution would be to transfer jurisdiction of all county and state highways (other than the expressway system) inside city limits to CDOT, and adjust the funding mechanism accordingly. The coordination needed inside Chicago with aldermen, CTA, utilities and others is challenging enough without endless negotiation and reviews when CDOT tries to make improvements on a state route, including safety measures for bicyclists and pedestrians.

  2. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:06 pm:

    ===One potential solution===

    Fine. In the meantime, IDOT ought to do their freaking jobs.

  3. - Excitable Boy - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:11 pm:

    - IDOT ought to do their freaking jobs. -

    Agreed. Too many state agencies are hobbled by the career bureaucrats who refuse to let go of the way they’ve always done things.

    When they tell you something can’t be done, they’re lying.

  4. - Benjamin - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:51 pm:

    State DOTs everywhere are notorious for prioritizing traffic speed and volume above pretty much anything else. Illinois has a good chance to bring the engineers to heel for once and force them to prioritize the city’s needs over their own inertia.

  5. - Dan Johnson - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:59 pm:

    The policy and governance infrastructure (so to speak) for the road network is a totally jumbled mess. A street with significant intersections is often ‘owned’ in different pieces and blocks by the municipality, county and/or state. That may have made sense when different governments were paying to build them, but these days when all we do is maintain a network, we’re long overdue for a rationalization of ownership and control over the road network.

  6. - Anyone Remember - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:17 pm:

    IDOT was dragged kicking and screaming to count “dooring” accidents. Since the vehicle wasn’t “moving” IDOT didn’t count it as an accident, even though the City of Chicago did.

    Only after this story

    did Pat Quinn order IDOT to record “doorings”

  7. - Just Me 2 - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:34 pm:

    Seems to me that before we tackle big issues like fixing the RTA, maybe we should fix the small stuff like this first.

  8. - Simple Simon - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:50 pm:

    IDOT must be dragged kicking and screaming to spend a dime on things other than more and bigger roads. They have mandates for other things like bikes and pedestrians, but they typically ignore or neglect those duties, especially when it “might be deemed as safety issues, excessive cost or absence of need.” Carte blanche.

  9. - Juvenal - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 3:57 pm:

    Who is the Deputy Governor over IDOT?

  10. - sal-says - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 4:16 pm:

    Been fighting with idot (don’t deserve upper case) since Jan about a project. They want a barrier curb design roadway which is effective for highly commercial areas. This 3 mile stretch has 2 (two) businesses, one will be forced to close.

    A 5 lane, shared center turn lane is at each end.
    And idot wants to install a new mile of that 5 lane, but incredulously refuses to use that throughout. The barrier cost design will waste over 10 million to ’solve’ a problem that doesn’t exist. That 10 mill should go to repairing bridge deficiencies.

    Every excuse idot presented to justify their selected barrier design has been refuted.

    Locals are afraid to oppose this project because they expect idot retribution on other projects.

    idot as an agency & each District office management requires an IL Professional Engineer registration.

    It’s past time for JB to put Registered Professional Engineers that care about true professionalism & professional behavior in charge of idot & the district offices.

  11. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 4:24 pm:

    === Too many state agencies are hobbled by the career bureaucrats who refuse to let go of the way they’ve always done things.===

    I suspect the problem is leadership as Rich pointed out. This “faceless career bureaucrats are the problem” talking point is almost always wrong in my experience.

  12. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 4:30 pm:

    ===“faceless career bureaucrats are the problem” talking point is almost always wrong===

    That’s likely a problem at IDOT, but strong management should be able to overcome that. It’s a matter of priorities.

  13. - JJJJJJJJJJ - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 4:43 pm:

    IDiOTic behavior

  14. - Huh? - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 5:31 pm:

    For the sake of full disclosure, I am a licensed professional engineer and work for IDOT. I also hold professional board certifications from the TPCB, a subsidiary of ITE.

    IDOT is staffed by genuine, caring people who want to do what is best for the traveling public.

    What we have seen as a result of covid is that drivers are more aggressive, more distracted, and driving faster. Crash rates have increased.

    CDOT has maintenance of all streets, with the exception of the interstates, within city limits. They are responsible for traffic enforcement. They are responsible for the engineering design. They are responsible for the construction projects. IDOT provides stewardship and oversight. IDOT has approval over many aspects of a project. But if CDOT doesn’t tell us about something, there isn’t much we can do.

    Consideration of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations are a required part of any Federally funded project. Where pedestrian accommodations exist, ADA compliance is required.

    Every project is evaluated for safety. The primary purpose of any IDOT project is to improve safety of all the users of the roadway, cyclists and pedestrians included.

  15. - Excitable Boy - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 6:20 pm:

    - I suspect the problem is leadership as Rich pointed out. -

    I wasn’t letting them off the hook. Management needs to push back when they get the same old excuses, all the way up to the Gov’s office.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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