HOMETOWN, Ill. (CBS) — At least two deadly crashes have taken place at the Metra crossing at 87th Street and Pulaski Road, and on Monday, Metra announced it is making changes.

As CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reported, Metra announced that the SouthWest Line crossing will be replaced this week. It comes after victims’ families called for an immediate fix.

Metra crews were out Monday getting ready for changes that victims and their families have been asking for years.

“It’s already been someone else after us,” said Jasmine Kemp. “Hopefully, it’s not another one…. No one else should feel this pain.”

It has been more than five years since Kemp lost her 18-year-old sister, Alexis Kemp, and their 20-year-old cousin, Juniel Kemp, at the crossing in Hometown – and just six months since Christopher Davis, 19, lost his life at the very same place.

They were involved in accidents where a car was caught on the tracks after the gate closed behind it, as can be seen on surveillance video from February in the accident that killed Davis.

Trapped by the gates, the driver is seen moving forward. That is when the train slams into the car.

“This is something that Metra’s known for years,” said Ben Crane, an attorney for the families.

Metra confirmed that the area was studied in 2017 and the Illinois Commerce Commission recommended several changes that would make the intersection less confusing for drivers.

Three years later, Metra announced it is finally happening.

“That they’re doing it speaks volumes,” Crane said. “This is a great day for railroad safety.”

Metra has always maintained that the crossing meets federal and state guidelines for safety. But now, they’re doing a complete 10-day overhaul.

The overhaul will include repositioning the intersection’s crossing gates closer to the tracks, adding pedestrian gates, and replacing the signal shelter.

Crane said these are fixes for which the impacted families have been asking.

“This change this says a lot,” Crane said.

He said the families are happy, but wish the change had come sooner.

“This will protect other people from getting killed in that area,” Crane said. “This is a victory for safety in that neighborhood in the Southwest and South Side of Chicago.”

The total project is expected to cost about $2.3 million, with about $350,000 coming from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The crossing will be closed beginning at 9 a.m. this coming Wednesday, Aug. 26 and will reopen to traffic on Friday, Sept. 4.

 

Megan Hickey