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County to make safety fixes on roadway where correctional officer was killed

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
by Lisa Donovan

Two months after a popular Cook County correctional officer was struck and killed as she crossed a busy stretch of roadway at 29th and California en route to the jail where she worked, city and county officials are poised to announce improved crosswalks in the area and markings aimed at slowing down drivers.

Nikkii Bostic-Jones, 37, was hit by a van as she crossed the street on a dark and rainy night July 18, officials said. She was thrown into the southbound lane of traffic, where she was hit by and pinned under a sheriff’s car, county sheriff officials said. In the aftermath, concerns were raised about how dark the area was and how difficult it could be to cross both California Avenue and neighboring California Boulevard to the east.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will be on hand Tuesday morning to announce new crosswalks on the boulevard and avenue, complete with raised medians in the center of both the avenue and boulevard, giving pedestrians a refuge between the northbound and southbound lanes of traffic. A new sidewalk also will be put in the grassy boulevard at 29th that separates the two streets.

Right now, California Avenue is marked as a two-lane roadway, but motorists treat it like a four-lane road because there is no on-street parking, according to county planners.

The new medians, along with new street striping from 27th to 31st on California will effectively narrow the lanes and, planners hope, slow down traffic.

The work will be completed by October, according to Preckwinkle’s office, but temporary improvements are in the offing: Painted refuge islands — the footprints of which will be replaced by the concrete islands — will be put in as soon as possible.

The Chicago Department of Transportation will handle the design and even though the city owns the streets, the county’s highway department has carved out $204,000 from its budget to cover the repair costs. Apparently the city couldn’t afford the project, Preckwinkle told the Sun-Times Monday.

“We’re using the resources we have” so there’s “no delay,” she said.

Down the line, she may ask the city or even the alderman in the area to help pay for the improvements.

A suspect was arrested in the hit-and-run death of Bostic-Jones. Juan Bello, 57, of the Little Village neighborhood, was charged with reckless homicide, leaving the scene of an accident and was cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian, driving too fast for conditions and driving on a revoked license. He is awaiting trial in the case.

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