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Augustin Arroyo, 56, Fatally Struck at Dangerous Chinatown Intersection

The confusing layout of the Cermak/Wentworth intersection may have been a factor in the crash. Image: Google Maps

A south suburban man was struck and killed this weekend by a semi truck driver at a hazardous intersection in Chinatown that is slated to be reconfigured this year.

On Saturday morning at about 9:30 a.m., the trucker was heading eastbound on Cermak when he struck Augustin Arroyo, 56, at the southwest corner of the Cermak/Wentworth intersection, according to Officer Kevin Quaid from Police News Affairs.

Arroyo, from southwest-suburban Markham, was transported to Mercy Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:46 a.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Quaid said police believe the driver had a green light. A photo published by the Chicago Tribune indicates that the truck driver wasn’t turning when he struck Arroyo. The trucker stayed at the scene and wasn’t cited, according to Quaid. “The driver was determined not to be at fault,” he said. Major Accidents is investigating the case.

Although there are no traffic cameras at the intersection, presumably there were multiple witnesses to the crash at the busy intersection. This post will be updated if more information becomes available.

The dangerous and confusing layout of the intersection may have been a factor in the crash. Wentworth jogs east north of Cermak, and there are complex turning patterns and signal phases. The only crosswalk for northbound pedestrians is in the west leg of the intersection, where Arroyo was struck.

In 2014 the city announced plans to realign the intersection as part of the Wells-Wentworth Connector project. The work was originally supposed to be done in 2016, but, as of last fall, was scheduled for completion in June of this year. It’s not yet clear whether straightening Wentworth might have made a difference in this case.

Fatality Tracker: 2017 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths
Pedestrian: 8 (three were hit-and-run crashes)
Bicyclist: 1

The southwest corner of Cermak/Wentworth, where Arroyo was struck, according to police. Image: Google Street View
The southwest corner of Cermak/Wentworth, where Arroyo was struck, according to police. Image: Google Street View
The southwest corner of Cermak/Wentworth, where Arroyo was struck, according to police. Image: Google Street View

Update 3/28/17, 11:45 a.m.

Blue City Cycles co-owner Owen Lloyd stopped by the crash site and provided some details about how the signal phases work at this intersection. According to Lloyd, at the beginning of the cycle, northbound vehicles on Wentworth get a 35-second green. Simultaneously, north- and soutbound pedestrians get a roughly six-second Walk signal, followed by a 29-second countdown to the Don't Walk signal. Police say Arroyo was at the southwest side of the intersection when he was struck. It's not clear whether he was crossing northbound or southbound at the time.

In the second phase of the light cycle, westbound vehicles on Wentworth get a 65-second green, with 23 seconds of that including a left-turn signal for vehicles turning south onto Wentworth. The long signal time is likely due to the high volume of cars coming from the Dan Ryan off-ramp located just east of Wentworth, across from the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line station. In 2008, a semi-truck driver barreled off the highway during the evening rush and slammed into the station, killing two people and injuring at least 21.

After the left-turn signal for westbound traffic on Cermak is deactivated, eastbound traffic on Cermak, the direction that the driver who struck Arroyo was going, also gets a 23-second green. There is no left-turn arrow for eastbound vehicles.

While the signal phase information doesn't make it clear what happened to Arroyo, this tragedy makes it obvious that the planned safety redesign of the intersection can't happen soon enough.

In researching the Arroyo case I learned about another pedestrian fatality that happened nearby on the 1900 block of South Tan Court on Saturday, March 10, at about 8:10 a.m. I'll try to provide more info on this case later today.

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