An SUV driver killed Martha Velazquez on Columbus in Ashburn. A road diet is planned.
On Friday, May 27, a hit-and-run SUV driver fatally struck Martha Velazquez, 34, on the 2900 block of West Columbus Avenue in the Ashburn community. A four-to-three conversion road diet was already planned on this stretch prior to the tragic crash.
The Martha Velazquez case
According to Police News Affairs, at about 8:30 p.m., Velazquez was crossing Columbus, a southwest-northeast diagonal street. Columbus is currently a four-lane “stroad,” which encourages speeding. On this block, the grassy parkway has been removed in some locations to make room for car parking, which means there is no buffer between car space and pedestrian space.
According to police, the driver of a black SUV was traveling southwest when they struck Velazquez, and then fled the scene, turning northbound on to Whipple Street (3030 W.)
Velazquez was transported to Christ Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office. She was the thirteenth person fatally struck while walking on Chicago streets this year.
The traffic crash report provided more information about the case. It indicates that the driver struck Velazquez directly in front of her home on the north side of Columbus as she was crossing the street northbound.
The crash report indicates that there there is relevant security camera footage from two nearby properties. The report also lists the license plate number of a red Kia, labeled “witness” in the above diagram, whose driver may have seen the crash.
The planned redesign of Columbus
According to a recent report from Urbanize, the Chicago Department of Transportation is planning to reconfigure Columbus between Western (2400 W.) and Kedzie (3200 W.) avenues in conjunction with a railroad grade separation project at Maplewood Avenue (2530 W.) The Belt Railway line currently crosses this intersection at grade, and there have been 45 reported crashes there since 1956.
The project will lower Columbus below the tracks and construct a new railroad bridge above the road. Maplewood and Campbell (2500) avenues will be cul-de-sac-ed, so that they no longer intersect with Columbus.
Although the footprint of Columbus will be widened somewhat overall, the $86 million project includes a four-to-three conversion road diet, since it will convert the current four-lane street to one mixed-traffic lane in each direction, plus a turn lane. CDOT will also paint non-protected bike lanes, and the sidewalks will be widened. Construction is slated to start in early 2023, and wrap up by late 2024.
It’s disappointing that CDOT isn’t installing physically-protected bikeways on Columbus, since it’s a useful diagonal route, and painted lines do little or northing to keep drivers out of bike lanes. However, visually reducing the number of lanes available to drivers should calm traffic somewhat, which will hopefully prevent motorists from taking more lives on this stretch. But tragically this street redesign didn’t happen soon enough to save Martha Velazquez.
Fatality Tracker: 2022 Chicago pedestrian and bicyclist deaths on surface streets
Note: Streetsblog Chicago’s traffic death numbers represent fatal crashes on Chicago surface streets, based on media reports and/or preliminary Chicago Police Department data.
2022 Chicago pedestrian fatality cases
- On May 27, 2022, a hit-and-run SUV driver fatally struck Martha Velazquez, 34, on the 2900 block of West Columbus Avenue in Ashburn.
- On May 19, 2022, a motorcyclist fatally struck Timothy Kast, 46, as he crossed the 5300 block of West Irving Park Road in Portage Park.
- On May 11, 2022, a BMW sedan driver struck and killed 82-year-old Concepcion Lopez, as she waited at a CTA bus stop on the 2100 block of West Peterson in West Ridge.
- On May 10, 2022, a left-turning van driver failed to yield to failed to yield to Berta Arroyo Salgado, 73, as she crossed the street in a crosswalk at Chicago Avenue and Paulina Street in West Town, killing the senior.
- On May 6, 2022, a Cadillac sedan driver ran a red light at Roosevelt Road and Damen Avenue on the Near West Side, struck another vehicle, and careened onto the sidewalk, killing a 33-year-old man.
- On April 18, 2022, a left-turning sedan driver fatally struck Yehuala Melkama, 44, as she walked in a crosswalk at Hazel and Sunnyside avenues in Uptown.
- On March 27, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed Larry J. Davis, 68, at 3350 S. Kedzie Ave. in Little Village.
- On March 17, 2022, a left-turning driver struck and killed Miriam M. Grande, 70, at Grand and Austin avenues in the Belmont Central neighborhood and fled the scene.
- On March 15, 2022, a car driver fatally struck Allen Lee Jr., 88, as he attempted to cross Western Avenue at 109th Street in Morgan Park.
- On February 8, 2022, a Chicago police officer struck Javion Marquel Johnson, 20, with an SUV after Johnson had been shot multiple times, potentially contributing to his death, at 12111 S. Stewart Avenue in Rosehill.
- On January 20, 2022, a hit-and-run driver fatally struck Richard Haljean, 57, as he crossed Touhy Avenue at Oriole Avenue in Edison Park.
- On January 15, 2022 Angel Thomas, 35, was walking to her car on the 4300 block of West Jackson Boulevard in West Garfield Park when an SUV driver fatally struck her and fled.
- On January 12, 2022, an SUV driver struck and killed Deborah Renee Jones, 67, in the 6800 block of South Stony Island in South Shore.
2022 Chicago bike fatality cases
- On May 4, 2022, a Nissan Versa sedan driver fatally struck Nick Parlingayan, 22, on his bike at Milwaukee and Kilbourn avenues in Irving Park.
- On April 16, 2022, an allegedly intoxicated hit-and-run Volkswagen Jetta driver fatally struck Paresh Chhatrala, 42, near Madison and Peoria streets in the West Loop.
- On February 28, 2022, a BMW sedan driver ran a red light at Balbo Drive and DuSable Lake Shore Drive in the Loop, fatally striking Gerardo Marciales, 41, on a Divvy bike.