Joliet — A fatal accident may have been a tragic way to show the need for safety upgrades on a far West Side stretch of Theodore Street in Joliet.
But the June 2 collision did just that, Aimee Head said.
Head lead a petition drive after the accident urging the city to shorten a timetable that sets construction for spring 2024 for traffic lights, turn lanes and other improvements on Theodore Street from Route 59 to Drauden Road. The petition has got more than 2,400 signatures.
“We were told six years ago that the project would be completed by now,” Head said.
Residents in the subdivisions along Theodore Street have been urging the city for at least that long to do something to make left turns safer for motorists attempting to get on and off the thoroughfare.
The city is doing something.
Engineering is underway for improvements that will add a fifth middle lane along the route, now two lanes in each direction, from Drauden Road to Route 59. The middle lane is being designed to provide a safe place for motorists so they don’t need to wait in traffic for the openings that allow for left turns.
But construction is not likely to begin until spring 2024.
“I don’t know what we can do to move it faster,” Head said. “The reality is that the timetable is less than ideal.”
Ronald Favia, 58, of Joliet died after his motorcycle collided with a car making a left turn on June 2 at the intersection of Theodore Street and Wesmere Parkway.
A roadside memorial devoted to Favia stays and provides a reminder of the fatal collision.
The intersection will get a traffic light and intersection improvements, according to the upgrades planned by the city.
The intersection now is a main outlet onto Theodore Street for residents in the Wesmere and Eagle Ridge subdivisions. Residents leaving the intersection have a stop sign, but traffic on Theodore does not stop.
Just west of the intersection is Troy Middle School.
Another traffic light will be installed at Drauden Road.
Joliet Public Works Director Greg Ruddy said the city before the accident sped up construction by dividing the project into phases. The first phase includes the traffic light at Wesmere Parkway.
“We can’t speed it up any faster than what we are doing,” Ruddy said.
State funding is being used for the project. State rules require two engineering studies, each of which can take a year or more to complete. The project is now in the second phase of engineering, which is expected to be completed in fall 2023.
Ruddy estimates that construction will start in spring 2024.
“If we can push it earlier, we will,” he said.
Residents and city officials are discussing interim safety measures. But it’s not clear what can be done.
In the meantime, Head said, more motorists are driving through Wesmere subdivision streets to get to Drauden Road rather than use the intersection at Wesmere Parkway and Theodore.
“The reality,” she said, “is right now residents try to avoid the intersection altogether because it’s just not safe.”