Two weeks ago, 45th Ward Alderman John Arena used his car to blockade a construction site at Wilson Avenue and Lamon Avenue, where a Chicago Department of Transportation crew had begun building cul-de-sacs to eliminate through traffic and make room for a digital billboard. Arena, who opposes the installation of the 90-foot sign, said he wasn’t notified about the street closure work before it started the previous weekend. The alderman also argued that the street closure would cause traffic problems.
In the wake of the alderman’s direct action, CDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said the decision to build cul-de-sacs was in response to “a history of excessive speeding on Lamon and Wilson due to cut-through traffic”:
These improvements, while addressing traffic safety and improving conditions on the increasingly residential section of Lamon, also accommodate the placement of a digital sign which was approved by City Council in 2013…These changes will address the speeding problem, eliminate crashes from cars that lose control at the curve from Lamon to Wilson, and reduce the number of trucks that strike the low-clearance viaduct on Wilson.
The department met with Arena that day and agreed to halt the project and temporarily reopen the street until a public meeting can be held about the street closure. Car access has been restored but, last week, Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh told me that the ward had not yet received speeding and crash statistics from CDOT that would back up the safety argument, and the public meeting hasn’t been scheduled.
I asked the transportation department for relevant crash data but they didn’t provide any. Instead, Streetsblog Chicago’s Steven Vance looked up the information in the Illinois Department of Transportation’s crash database, called the Illinois Safety Data Mart which is based on Chicago Police Department reports. The database is currently offline, but Steven requests the data from IDOT each year and uses it to update his website the Chicago Crash Browser.
Only crashes resulting in serious injury or at least $1,500 in property damage are included in the IDOT database. Here’s what Steven found from looking at the data from 2009 to 2013 on Lamon and Wilson between Lawrence Avenue and Cicero Avenue, excluding crashes within Lawrence and Cicero.
Between Lawrence and a viaduct for Metra’s Milwaukee District / North Line (the solid-white, diagonal line west of Cicero in the above aerial), there were five crashes, all involving car drivers who struck parked cars, resulting in property damage but no reported injuries: