New safety measures coming to site of student’s injury
By Susan DeMar Lafferty firstname.lastname@example.org July 28, 2012 3:46PM
Updated: August 31, 2012 6:10AM
When Jack Hille Middle School students return to class on Aug. 22, there will be a new and much safer way to walk to the Oak Forest school.
After a student was seriously injured after being hit by a car in front of the school on 151st Street last April, school, city and county officials worked together to get pedestrian signals there.
While full improvements won’t be completed for a few months, parents and students will see temporary safety measures being installed next week, Forest Ridge School District 142 Supt. Margaret Longo said.
The two crosswalks — east and west of the school — will be consolidated into one crosswalk directly in front of Hille School that aligns with its driveway, she said.
For now, there will be signs, caution lights, crossing guards and extra school personnel monitoring the street and getting students used to the new pattern.
The full improvements by the Cook County Highway Department will include traffic signals in front of the school that will be triggered to stop traffic when it detects a pedestrian or vehicle. Pedestrians can also push a button for a signal to cross the street.
Additionally, a new sidewalk will be installed on the south side of 151st Street in front of Hope Christian Reformed Church to give pedestrians a safe place to walk, Longo said.
Brighter street lights also have been installed to better illuminate this dark stretch of roadway.
“They are doing everything right,” she said.
School officials have tried for more than seven years to make 151st Street safer near the school which is used for many evening programs and community events.
After Alex Fitzgerald was hit April 20 as he was leaving a school play, parents, school and city officials launched a campaign to get improvements on this dark, busy road.
Alex was the second student to be injured by a vehicle in two years on 151st Street. He was in a coma for three weeks after the accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, fractures to his face, head, collarbone and leg.
His mother, Lisa Fitzgerald, said his recovery has been “a miracle.”
Longo said Alex continues to recover and faces another surgery in August before returning for his eighth-grade year at the middle school.
County highway officials have been “so diligent,” and “so responsive” to the community’s request for a safer street, she said.
Everyone worked together including the school, church, city and county — “community spirit,” Longo said. After seven years of requesting safety improvements, the superintendent attributed the quick response to “new leadership in county government.”
“We have someone who really understands serving people,” Longo said.