CHICAGO (CBS) — They’ve been asking for a traffic signal for four years, but the intersection is still one of the most dangerous in Illinois.
2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports on how a light could prevent accidents and save lives.
Every day, cars speed north and south on Ridgeland Avenue in Chicago Ridge, while others try to cross the street at 99th street, often ignoring a stop sign.
“We need traffic signals,” said long-time resident Gino Amato.
From his balcony, Amato has photographed near misses and numerous crashes at the intersection.
“I’m fearful of somebody getting hurt or dying,” added Amato.
Amato recalled trying to help one recent crash victim.
“Her body was mangled under the dashboard,” he said.
“I’ve pulled kids out of cars,” said Amy Reyes.
Reyes is another resident in the area who said she’s witnessed about 30 accidents.
“Four or five cars crashed over there one day and probably ten people went to the hospital,” Reyes said.
“In the last four years we’ve had 137 accidents and 37 of them were personal injury accidents,” said Chicago Ridge Police Chief Robert Pyznarski.
The 2 Investigators reviewed crash reports from the area with the Police Chief who conceded that there was a pattern.
“Most of our accidents are because people are trying to cross from 99th street over to Ridgeland,” said Chief Pyznarski.
There have been so many accidents at 99th and Ridgeland that it was listed by the Illinois Department of Transportation in 2014 and 2015 as one of the state’s most dangerous intersections.
Since 2015, Chicago Ridge has been trying to get traffic signals installed at the intersection; and since then, there have been more than 100 accidents, including one that occurred during the reporting for this story.
“She tried to brake, the car slid, and it was too late,” said accident victim, Katherine Puga.
Now the village president, Charles Tokar, fears the traffic signal project might not get started until next year.
Tokar said he doesn’t know why it’s taking so long.
“It’s amazing, absolutely amazing just to get a traffic signal up,” said Tokar. “To wait four years just boggles the mind.”
Village records explain months and months of delays caused in part by lack of county funding and the steps needed to get federal funding for 80 percent of the project. Over the years that have passed the cost has ballooned to more than $400,000 for additional required work, including improved lighting and required curb corners for pedestrians with disabilities.
IDOT oversees federally funded projects along with the county. In this case, apparent state staffing shortages have also lead to months of delays. For example, it took IDOT about nine months to approve the contract needed to hire a project engineer and about ten more months for both IDOT and Cook County to approve the plan.
“Does someone have to get killed there before we get a traffic signal put up?” Tokar said.
County and state officials have refused to be interviewed on camera. But their staff has repeatedly pointed fingers at each other and the village for being responsible for the progress of the project.
Since Ridgeland is a Cook County road, a spokeswoman says it still must review and approve the final plan and issue a construction permit, most likely later this summer.