After student Alex Fitzgerald was struck by a car on 151st Street near the school last April, the Cook County Highway Department moved swiftly to make the area safer. A new traffic signal was installed at the school exit, and the county partnered with the City of Oak Forest to construct a safer crosswalk for students. Brighter street lights were also installed to light up a dark stretch of roadway.
“This is an example of the importance and value of city-county partnerships,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “When city and school officials sought the county’s help, our Highway Department moved quickly to ensure the safety of our children. My administration is committed to responding to the needs of the community. We thank Cook County Commissioner Joan Murphy for setting this urgent project in motion and serving as an intermediary between the county and the citizens of Oak Forest.”
On November 7, officials from Oak Forest, Cook County and Forest Ridge Elementary School District 142 activated a temporary stoplight installed in front of the school. The light will automatically stop traffic when a pedestrian presses the walk button or when cars exit the school parking lot. Students will be trained on using the light. A permanent signal will be installed in the spring. The new sidewalk was completed at the end of October and new crosswalk markings were placed on the pavement in early November.
District 142 Superintendent Margaret Longo said she was grateful for the county’s “swift response to the safety needs of the community of Oak Forest.” She said the traffic safety project was supported by thousands of residents and is “evidence of governmental cooperation and an unprecedented response to our community’s request after a terrible traffic accident seriously injured one of our children. The detailed and comprehensive work completed by Cook County and Oak Forest officials provides an illustration of hard work and perseverance on behalf of the families and children served by our school district. We commend President Preckwinkle on this project, her staff and her leadership.”
Troy Ishler, city administrator and public works director of Oak Forest, said that after the student was seriously injured, “We brought it to the attention of our commissioner, Joan Murphy, who reacted immediately and set up meetings. Everyone came together in the quickest fashion I’ve ever seen for a project like this. The communication was excellent. We were able to accomplish this project in record time. It was absolutely outstanding.”