Patch Readers Want to Know: Why So Slow on Central Avenue?
We looked into why the speed limit on Central Avenue is 25 mph between 147th and 159th streets.
You're in a rush; you left your cell phone at home and must double back to get it. Or you're shuttling your kids from one practice to another, so you speed up to make sure everyone gets there on time. The sirens flash in your rearview mirror—were you driving faster than the 25 mph speed limit?
As you drive away (slowly) with your speeding ticket, you wonder: Why so slow on Central Avenue?
With the help of Oak Forest Park District Commissioner Pat Burns, Patch was able to flesh out the details of how Central Avenue's speed limit dipped below 30 mph. Patch readers posed the question in our Q&A section on March 25.
It was 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night in May, 1975. Twelve-year-old Christine DeNova was crossing Central Avenue by Albert Drive, between 156th and 157th streets, headed home from the Oak Forest Park District building. Christine, a seventh-grader at Arbor Park Middle School, had just finished a meeting with a youth group when she was struck by a car driven by Oak Forest resident Lambert Eincke.
Christine died of her injuries.
The next day, residents protested near the intersection, urging motorists to slow down. At the time, the speed limit on the stretch of Central Avenue was 40 mph, and the road was characterized by poor lighting, hills and no sidewalks, as noted in a Southtown Economist article from May 11, 1975. A Chicago Sun-Times article from May 12, 1975, also described the street as lacking stop signs or stoplights.
Prior to Christine's death, city and park district staff had been asking for the Cook County Highway Division to better moderate speed and traffic. On the day of the protest, nearly 1,000 residents carried signs asking that drivers slow down and help keep their kids safe.
"Kids are being killed and injured and all we have is stacks of paper saying 'no,'" then-park district commissioner Don Gorman was quoted in the article.
By May 14, 1975, then-Cook County Board President George Dunne ordered the speed limit decreased to 25 mph.
"It's regrettable it takes the death of a child to bring about these changes," reads Dunne's quote in a May 14, 1975, Chicago Tribune article.
Some of you were aware of the catalyst for the speed limit reduction. Some had heard about an accident, but were unclear of the details. Many of you spoke out on our site, discussing whether to raise the speed limit to 35 mph.
No, too many kids walking down Central all day long. Also, too many 'teen' driving to and from OFHS. Keep limit as is please. Keep our kids safe.
Yes. However, they could enforce a school zone speed limit during the start and finish time of the school. — Ryan
No, if you raise the speed limit to 35 then people will go 45-50. There are too many teen drivers along Central every day, keep the speed limit 25. — Judy C.
No...there are too many children/people present because of the Park District and Library. — Laura
Sure, but raise it to 34 MPH! That number would be so unique nobody would be able to drive along Central without paying attention to their speedometer. — Joseph Conway
One purpose of Patch is to serve as an active, reciprocal channel of community involvement.
If you did not know the facts before, where do you stand now?