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Sheriff's officer's death spurs safety work
Crosswalks, ramps and signs near jail will be upgraded

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Jon Hilkevitch

Traffic safety improvements are being made outside Cook County Jail so corrections officers who face dangers each day at work don't also put their lives on the line while crossing the street to enter and leave the facility, officials said Monday.

After a recent crash that killed an officer, pedestrian islands in the middle of the roadway and other changes are planned for the pedestrian crosswalks at 2900 S. California Ave. and 2900 S. California Blvd., officials said.

County sheriff's corrections Officer Nikkii Bostic-Jones was struck and killed in the hit-and-run crash July 18 while crossing California Avenue on her way to work at the jail campus, officials said. The crosswalk is near the employee entrance to the facility.

The pedestrian enhancements coming to the crosswalk and at a nearby crosswalk at the Criminal Courts Building will include high-visibility pavement markings and signs, new sidewalk ramps for wheelchairs and the elimination of some on-street parking near the crosswalks to improve the sight lines of drivers, officials said. A new sidewalk will also be built through the grass boulevard area between California Avenue and California Boulevard, officials said.

Officials said the changes are in direct response to the accident that killed Bostic-Jones, 38. The driver charged in her death previously had his license revoked upon a second conviction for driving under the influence, officials said.

"We are doing this at the request of the sheriff's office,'' Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. "They had concerns about the safety of employees after losing one of their officers."

The driver in the accident, Juan Bello, 57, of Chicago, was charged with reckless homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal accident, among other violations. When his van hit Bostic-Jones as she crossed California Avenue, the impact knocked her into the path of a sheriff's squad car, police said.

On Tuesday, work crews are scheduled to begin installing temporary improvements that will remain in effect until the permanent upgrades are completed by the end of October, officials said.

The Chicago Department of Transportation is designing the $204,000 project, which is being paid for by Cook County. The Cook County Highway Department and the Cook County Sheriff's Office became involved after the city was unable to pay for the improvements, Preckwinkle said. California Avenue is under the city's jurisdiction.

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