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Dangerous Crossings at Western Ave. Spur Pedestrian Island, Police Stings

By Patty Wetli | March 14, 2013 2:23pm | Updated on March 14, 2013 2:29pm
 Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) met with parents and students concerned about safety at Lane Tech College Prep High School.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) met with parents and students concerned about safety at Lane Tech College Prep High School.
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DNAinfo/Patty Wetli

ROSCOE VILLAGE — A safety island will be built at Western and Cornelia avenues to help prevent Lane Tech students from being hit by cars, the local alderman says.

The combination of 4,000 Lane Tech students and highly-trafficked Western Avenue has made for a dangerous situation: in 2011 and late 2012 students were struck by cars as they crossed the street.

Those incidents, coupled with the added traffic sure to accompany the opening of two new public facilities adjacent to the school's campus — Kerry Wood Cubs Field and the Clark Park boathouse — prompted parents and administrators to call for improved safety measures around the school.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) responded by announcing at Wednesday night's meeting of the Lane Tech Parent Teacher Student Organization that his office had just signed off on funding for the pedestrian safety island to be built.

The island will not only provide students and other pedestrians with a haven in the middle of the road, but it will also stop drivers from using the median on Western as a throughway to the left turning lane.

Pawar said 19th District Police Commander Elias Voulgaris has also been conducting "stings" in which plainclothes police officers acting like pedestrians nab drivers for ignoring stop signs.

The coming installation of speed cameras and "Slow, School Zone" signs should further discourage reckless driving behavior, he added.

But students need to bear some of the burden for their own safety, the alderman said.

Comparing the crossing situation at Western Avenue to a game of Frogger, Pawar noted that police also have been encouraged to ticket students for jaywalking.

"We will continue to crack down on drivers, but it's got to be a two-way street," he said.

"We're trying to create a culture with ticketing. If a kid does it once, they won't do it again," Pawar said.

Future changes to Western Avenue, particularly the proposal for Bus Rapid Transit, which could see a dedicated center lane for buses only, would radically transform the street, reducing traffic and all but eliminating students' option to cross anywhere but at an intersection, Pawar said.

"We're trying to do what we can and be as aggressive as we can."