UKRAINIAN VILLAGE — Children from Ukrainian Village's St. Nicholas Cathedral School, local business owners and community leaders joined Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) to switch on four new stoplights at the intersection of Chicago and Hoyne avenues on Monday morning.
Moreno and Hopkins described the stoplights as "an enhancement to public safety" because the intersection presents "a challenging hazard for crossing pedestrians."
The $350,000 cost of the four lights at 2100 West Chicago Avenue were evenly split between Ald. Moreno (1st) and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who contributed $175,000 from their 2016 "menu money."
Each Chicago aldermen gets $1.3 million every year to spend as they see fit to fix up roads, sidewalks or fund other projects designed to spruce up their wards. The north side of Chicago Avenue falls in Hopkins' ward, while the south side of the street is in Moreno's ward.
Hopkins called the stoplight "a great example of menu money working."
"I was aware of the longstanding request [for a traffic light] going back eight years. Some of the road studies [on whether the light was needed] were inconclusive. When we agreed to allocate the menu money, we were able to get around the lengthy approval process [for stoplights]," Hopkins said.
Moreno was not at the ceremony but later said: "I was proud to allocate menu money for this important safety measure in our neighborhood."
Though the new CDOT traffic lights are just one block west of another 4-way stoplight at Chicago and Damen avenues, the Chicago and Hoyne avenues intersection sees a lot of foot traffic.
Maurice Burke, manager of Mariano's, 2021 W. Chicago Ave., said that 90 percent of customers travel to the busy grocery store by foot.
"They are trying to get across the street and a lot of cars don't want to stop. We are glad the aldermen responded and did this. It's great for the community and for customers who don't have to play Frogger anymore," Burke said.
Aiden Kam, a St. Nicolas Cathedral School student, earned first place honors in an essay contest for the school's third and fourth graders, who were asked by Hopkins and Moreno to describe safe pedestrian behavior.
Authors of the three most intriguing essays got to "flip the switch" that turned on the traffic light for the very first time.
Kam's parents own Sunrise Cafe at 2012 W. Chicago Ave., just east of the new light.
Kam, 10, wrote about his experiences living near the intersection ("we hear tires screeching").
"We will be safer now with the new light. Many times cars have gone by real fast and not stopped for us," Kam wrote.
Sofia, a fourth grader, observed "While driving, drivers are usually distracted by cell phones."
Anna Cirilli, principal of St. Nicolas Cathedral School, about two blocks north of the intersection, said the school's 167 students often cross the Chicago and Hoyne intersection.
"The kids and their families frequent Kasia's Deli and Mariano's," Cirilli said.
Late Sunday, prior to the light being activated, pedestrian Jason Zenz was crossing the intersection.
"This is a bad intersection.They put up the [concrete] island; it didn't help," Zenz said.
Zenz said he's only lived near the intersection for just under two years but when he moved to the area, he thought a stoplight was needed there.
"Crossing feels more difficult than it needs to be," Zenz said.
Prior to Monday's signal activation ceremony, the traffic lights were activated with flashing red warning lights on Friday to get drivers and pedestrians prepared.