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IDOT Plan for Deadly Intersection Still Not Enough, Family Says

Family of 14-year-old girl that was struck and killed trying to cross a dangerous Oak Lawn intersection, says IDOT signalization plans still don’t address corner’s safety problems.

Signs placed at corner of Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue on one-year anniversary of 14-year-old Kaylah Lentine's death in May 2013.
Signs placed at corner of Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue on one-year anniversary of 14-year-old Kaylah Lentine's death in May 2013.

Frustration for the family of a 14-year-old Hometown girl who was killed by a pickup truck in May 2012 while trying to cross Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue is mounting.

The family of Kaylah Lentine, who died of her injuries just a few days before her graduation from Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School, expressed their disappointment with the Illinois Department of Transportation's plan to modernize the intersection's traffic signals.

Working with a transportation advocacy group, Kaylah's family had petitioned for more features to make the intersection compliant with federal disability standards, including timed pedestrian lights and islands, zebra-style crosswalks, and truncated curb cuts.

The family is concerned that IDOT's plan for Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue still doesn't address inherent pedestrian safety at the corner. 

“It doesn’t make it as safe as it needs to be," Kaylah's mother, Krista Wilkinson, said. “I’m glad they’re doing something but I don’t feel like it’s enough.”

The IDOT plan calls for modernizing the corner’s existing traffic signal which will consist of signal heads in all directions, emergency vehicle preemption,  illuminated LED  street name signs. pedestrian signal heads and push buttons.

The approximate cost for the project is $683,150, to be shared 80/20 with the village. Oak Lawn’s share is $62,387. Work is expected to begin sometime in the summer/fall 2014.

Oak Lawn Tr. Alex Olejniczak’s (Dist. 2) announcement that IDOT had sought the village’s approval for its plan to add pedestrian crossing signals at the Jan. 14 village board meeting came as a surprise to the family. 

Wilkinson said that she only learned of the plan from friends on Facebook.

“I don’t understand why nobody thought to contact me about the [Jan. 14] meeting,” Wilkinson said. “This is the same problem we had with [Oak Lawn] police. They closed their investigation with Kaylah in October 2012 and didn’t tell us until December of 2012 that the case was closed.”

The Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School student had missed the morning school bus on May 24, 2012. Eager to make a school assembly, where Kaylah was to have picked up a community service award, she decided to walk to school. 

She was struck and killed by a pickup truck driven by a 26-year-old man from Chicago Ridge.

In October 2012, Oak Lawn Police concluded from its investigation that the driver was “not at fault” for the accident that claimed the life of the Hometown girl.

Security video obtained from a nearby business showed Kaylah taking her time while crossing the intersection, Wilkinson said.

“The video shows that Kaylah wasn’t running like it was described in the police report," Wilkinson said. 

Wilkinson also expressed disappointment that IDOT's plan did not address guidelines and recommendations of transportation advocacy experts Active Transportation Alliance.

ActiveTrans blasted the intersection in the months following the accident for its almost-invisible crosswalk lines and lack of pedestrian crossing signals. The intersection also was not compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The transportation advocacy group identified Southwest Highway and Cicero Avenue was the only intersection between 79th and 115th Streets that did not have a pedestrian crosswalk signal or pedestrian activation buttons traveling south down Cicero.

Twenty-one pedestrian and bicycle accidents involving cars that occurred along Cicero Avenue between 91st and 95th Streets, and on 95th Street between Museum Drive and Kilbourn Avenue, based on IDOT statistics for 2006-2010.

Further, three pedestrian fatalities happened at 92nd and 95th Street at Cicero Avenue, and at 95th Street and Kenton Avenue, ActiveTrans said based on its analysis of IDOT statistics.

Olejniczak said, based on his understanding, that countdown timers were not possible because of the Metra train crossing on Cicero just south of Southwest Highway.

“Where do you stand and where do you go to? That’s the problem Kaylah had,” Wilkinson said. “There was nothing telling her when to cross. It’s the same problem. It’s not going to help people on bikes or in wheelchairs.”

The family says they will continue to press for additions to the intersection recommended by ActiveTrans.

Hometown and Oak Lawn residents continue to leave flowers in remembrance of Kaylah near the spot where she struck and killed. A few more steps and she would have safely made it to the other side, her family says.

JB18 January 20, 2014 at 05:36 PM
Come on Rick. Repost that post.
Bob January 20, 2014 at 06:10 PM
It doesn't matter who makes this intersection safe to cross as long as it gets done.
Mother 24 January 20, 2014 at 10:10 PM
RE:JB, I do not need Xanex. I agree the article (as most Patch articles) was written poorly. I would think that most people who comment on a particular artilce, are somewhat familiar with it. No sarcasm was intended. If you took my comments that way, I apologize.
Ryan Delaney January 21, 2014 at 07:17 PM
So, a girl got hit when she was jaywalking (no crosswalk) so we need more government intervention? Seriously? For real? How about teaching your children the proper way to cross a VERY busy highway? Highway 50, Cicero avenue... Wait, she was 14, couldn't possibly be her fault, or her parents fault.
Renee Wilkinson January 30, 2014 at 06:45 PM
Kaylah was crossing SW HWY, not Cicero Ave or HWY 50, as you refer to it. SW HWY at Cicero is the only intersection in the area without any pedestrian crosswalk lights in the whole region! It is also 9 lanes across & is on a diagonal & so is 108 feet across. (40% wider than 95th Street at Cicero, where there are crosswalk signs, no turn on red, etc.) How did this intersection "never" get crosswalk lights? They are at every other intersection, with a stop light along Cicero Avenue, yet, this one escaped getting this 1970's technology?? In every generation a teen has been seriously injured or killed at this intersection since the 1970's by walking across it. Government is supposed to provide for the safety of it's citizens and this is one on the busiest & longest crosswalks in Illinois, with over 60,000 people travelling through the intersection daily, yet no protections for pedestrians? The government paid for & put up all of the other Walk lights at much smaller intersections along the way, so why not here? Also, the Metra/Norfolk trains that run a block away strand pedestrians crossing SW HWY and the frequent ambulances complicate things further. Have some respect for life and people and work for a positive change for this intersection. Grandma Renee Wilkinson, Kaylah Lentine's Grandmother

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