University looks to city for traffic control on Midway

By Carl Pickerill

A string of accidents around the Midway and Ellis intersections—including last week’s hit-and-run that left a University student hospitalized—has spurred discussion about traffic improvements on the Midway. The University is pushing the city of Chicago and the local alderman to implement several intersection changes, according to Sonya Malunda, the assistant vice president of community affairs at the University.

“We identified four short-term and a couple of long-term goals that we would like to see accomplished between now and next spring,” Malunda said.

The four short-term goals are: tree trimming, a reduction in the number of parked cars at the Midway and Ellis Avenue intersection to increase visibility, the installation of additional signs, and more stringent patrolling of the Midway near Ellis Avenue. Long-terms goals include the installation of an overhead traffic signal at the intersection of Ellis and Midway.

Although the most recent accident occurred at 60th and Ellis Avenue, students and administrators have expressed concerns about the safety hazard at the Ellis Avenue and Midway intersection. While not all students are clamoring for more patrolling—some remain completely oblivious to last week’s accident—many housed in the Burton-Judson Courts on the corner of 60th and Ellis Avenue said there is a perceptible risk when crossing the streets near their residence hall.

“Every week there seems to be an accident on the Midway,” said Emily Weimer, a second-year in the College who lives in B-J. “Last week, a car came speeding down the Midway and screeched to a halt in the middle of the intersection, right before I was about to cross.”

Malunda attributes the heightened concern about the Ellis Avenue intersection to improvements made last year to the intersection two blocks to the east.

“The new overhead signals at Woodlawn have improved visibility. However, we believe that it has made the Ellis situation worse,” Malunda said. “A motorist who is driving east on the Midway from Cottage Grove can see the Woodlawn traffic signals very clearly as they are approaching Ellis. But if they are speeding or are distracted they could easily bypass the Ellis stop light.”

The University has been in contact with the fifth-ward alderman, Leslie Hairston, who has supported the University’s request to the city to install overhead lights at Ellis Avenue and Midway. The request was made in August but, due to “better weather conditions in the spring,” the city will not be taking action until after winter, Malunda said.

The request will have to go through several tests and will have to be approved by the state government, said Brian Steele from the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Hairston did not return multiple calls to comment.

“The city has to perform a number of steps in looking at traffic issues and engineering issues,” Malunda said. “Again, the Woodlawn improvement has been great, but the Ellis situation still has the traffic signals on each side, which we would like to see changed.”

In the past, the city has responded within reasonable amounts of time to requests for traffic improvements. The University requested stop signs at the intersections of 59th and Ellis and 60th and Ellis, respectively—requests with which the city eventually complied, said Keith Madderom, the associate dean of students for the Social Service administration.

“The north-south traffic on Ellis used to go really fast a few years ago before stop signs were installed,” Madderom said. “But the city seems to be responsive about most things. They are always hesitant about too many signs, but they did comply with the stop sign request and that was within a reasonable amount of time.”

Madderom said he had not heard anything about traffic improvements on 60th and Ellis—the site of last week’s accident—and added that none of the students or staff at the Social Service Administration Building made any requests for improvements. “Where we have noticed problems has been Midway and Ellis,” he said. “Once the stop signs went in on 60th and Ellis, people felt it was an appropriate response.”