New IDOT warning sign no match for car flying off Route 20 in Elgin
By Marni Pyke
Christopher Hilton is inured to mayhem.
But the Elgin resident recently had cause for optimism that cars would stop flying off a Route 20 exit ramp and into his trees and house on Illinois Avenue.
In early February, IDOT crews installed signs warning of a nasty curve on the ramp. The black and yellow placards display directional arrows and flag the 15 mph limit.
Hilton had hoped for a guard rail, but the signage was better than nothing. "It could help," he said on Feb. 8.
Eleven days later, "I was in the house and I heard an unmistakable sound," Hilton said. "It's like crunching metal."
Instead of making the 90-degree turn onto Illinois Avenue, a driver smacked into one of the new signs and crushed it.
This latest scare brings the tally to 15 cases of vehicles careening off the westbound Route 20 ramp that leads to northbound Route 25 via Illinois Avenue, according to Hilton's damage count. The craziness includes tire gashes in grass, a car downing a utility pole and a truck smacking into a tree -- sending the driver and passenger to the hospital.
"I never know when I look out the window what it's going to be," Hilton said.
The Daily Herald reported on his plight last month after a man joy-riding in a stolen Hyundai crashed into a tree a stone's throw from Hilton's front door Jan. 4.
Illinois Department of Transportation spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said Saturday the sign damage should be repaired by the end of the week, weather permitting.
The agency also has prioritized new turn lane markings to be installed on Route 20 plus lettering saying "Right" and "Only," and old markings will be refreshed, she noted.
"Additionally, our traffic engineers are currently analyzing the existing infrastructure for possible short-term solutions that balance the safety of the motoring public to make the roadway and residential corridor as safe as possible," Castaneda said.
The Daily Herald report drew the attention of state Sen. Cristina Castro, an Elgin Democrat who said she's working with IDOT and Elgin officials on a solution.
"I'm very concerned it's a matter of time before either the house is hit or somebody outside gets hit," Castro said.
In the longer term, IDOT plans major improvements on the Route 20 corridor in Elgin.
The project for Route 20 at Shales Parkway would add lanes as well as bridge, intersection and drainage upgrades.
IDOT also plans to lengthen the off ramp from Route 20 to northbound Route 25, which leads onto Hilton's street, to give drivers more time to decelerate.
Meanwhile, Hilton worries every time his children play outside.
"The state needs to take it seriously," he said. "They put up a sign -- who knows how much it cost for the sign and the labor -- and less than two weeks later it's knocked down and on the ground."
Castaneda said, "Because safety is always our No. 1 priority, IDOT constantly reviews and analyzes the most recent crash data to identify possible safety concerns and countermeasures.
"However, roadway safety is a shared responsibility. Drivers need to give their undivided attention when they're behind the wheel, avoid distractions, slow down and stay alert for all traffic signs and changing conditions."
You should know
Former state Sen. Melinda Bush is joining the Metra board as its newest Lake County director, after the retirement of former Chairman Norm Carlson. Bush, of Grayslake, started riding Metra as a kid, taking the train to movies in Libertyville.
Now she considers herself "not a regular commuter but a regular user," going to downtown Chicago on the Milwaukee District North Line or to nearby Lake County towns.
"I think I'll be helpful in the governance area and helping to work across the different agencies," said Bush, who served on the Senate Transportation Committee. "It's a challenging time. We really need to rethink the ways we use the transportation system. Since COVID-19, so much has changed."
One more thing
Suburbanites grabbing the CTA's Blue Line into the city should know track work will occur on weekends through late May. Fifty-year-old track will be replaced between the Addison and Western stations. That means the Belmont, Logan Square and California stops will be closed on some weekends and bus shuttles will be provided for impacted riders. For information, go to transitchicago.com/alerts.