Daniel Berk was one of the first people on the scene of a fatal traffic crash on Wednesday at the intersection of 183rd Street and Center Avenue in Homewood. The sight of a dying teenager trapped in his car prompted Berk to take action.
“It’s something I can’t unsee,” he said. “I sure hope we don’t have to see something like this again.”
On Thursday, Berk launched an online petition to seek community support for adding a stoplight at the intersection.
In less than 24 hours the petition had more than 1,100 signatures. By about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, the number had grown to nearly 3,400.
“This resonates with a lot of people,” he said.
Berk called Homewood Public Works to find out what steps would be necessary to get a stoplight installed, and he said the staff there was helpful and empathetic — and already on the case.
Village Manager Jim Marino said Friday that Public Works has begun work on a preliminary feasibility study.
Public Works Director John Schaefer said much of the preliminary work could be done in-house, but the village might have to hire a consultant at some point.
He said the project will involve gathering accident information for the past five years and traffic speed and volume information. The village will also have to determine to what extent the Illinois Department of Transportation needs to be involved.
There are questions to explore about whether the intersection alignment would need to change and whether rights of way would have to be acquired.
Berk, who has lived on 183rd Street for about two years, said this is not the first accident he has seen at the intersection.
Center Avenue does not follow a straight path as it crosses from the north side of 183rd Street to the south side. Consequently, vehicles travel diagonally across the busy four-lane thoroughfare.
Speeding is also a problem, he said. Although the speed limit on 183rd is 30 miles per hour, Berk said he regularly sees and hears cars, day and night, that are traveling much faster.
The Homewood Board of Trustees received an email message prior to its July 14 meeting from another resident who lives on 183rd Street asking the village to address speeding problems.
Jennifer Kellogg said the problem has been increasing lately. She estimated that some vehicles travel at more than 60 miles per hour on the street.
She asked the village to increase police presence on 183rd Street, to place radar-equipped digital speed display signs and to make “slow down” yard signs available to residents along the street as a reminder to drivers.
Berk said he plans to deliver the petition to Homewood officials, but he has not yet determined the timing. He plans to continue to monitor the number of signatures being added for a few more days.
Numerous petition signers added comments noting their reasons for supporting the proposal. Some are from friends and family of Dominique Wood, who lost his life in the crash on Wednesday. Most are from neighbors and other residents who said they have witnessed or have themselves been in near misses at the intersection over the years.