SOX PARK — Ald. Nicole Lee (11th) said parts of 35th Street are “unlikely to close in the short term” after a hit-and-run driver seriously injured four people before a game last month.
Lee met with White Sox officials Thursday to discuss traffic concerns and pitch safety protocols. With the Office of Emergency Management & Communications and the Chicago Department of Transportation, the partners plan to study how to calm traffic in the area around Guaranteed Rate Field, Lee said.
Adding a raised crosswalk or pedestrian curb lane on 35th Street across from the ballpark gates — the site of the near-fatal accident — were also discussed as possibilities, Lee said.
Four people were seriously injured by an erratic driver speeding the wrong way down 35th Street while Sox fans entered the ballpark for the team’s June 20 game against the Texas Rangers. Condelarious Garcia, 20, was charged with four felony counts of aggravated reckless driving and a misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license.
All those injured are now “in recovery,” Lee said.
But some fans and bikers continue to call the congested section of 35th Street dangerous, and one fan-turned-first-responder at the scene said it was time to “shut it down.”
This month the White Sox will put “additional signage” outside the ballpark to direct fans to the north side of Gate 5, an overpass where fans can enter the stadium without crossing traffic, a team spokesperson said.
Lee did not rule out a street closure but said she did not expect any major changes to be made until further discussions were had.
More than 50 messages have been sent to Lee’s office about traffic safety concerns since the incident, many requesting 35th Street be closed, Lee said.
But closing parts of the street could make traffic worse on nearby residential streets, hurt businesses that send trucks through and nix an access point to one of the team’s parking lots, Lee said.
“I know it’ll come as a disappointment to some that closing the street is not going to be done immediately. We’re taking a thoughtful approach and looking at finding a potential middle ground,” Lee said. “We need to weigh closing the street against its ripple effect. Solving it for pedestrians in one area could make it worse in others.”
Lee added that parts of 35th Street are completely closed for bigger games like the Crosstown Classic, and Office of Emergency Management and Communications guards will continue to direct traffic around the ballpark.
Office of Emergency Management and Commuications spokesperson Mary May said the agency evaluated “traffic control around the park” and fans are directed to use the overpass at Gate 5 so they “don’t have to cross 35th Street before the game.” After each game, 35th Street is closed as fans leave, May said.
A spokesperson from the Chicago Department of Transportation said the agency is “exploring traffic calming measures to encourage slower, safer driving speeds and improve pedestrian safety” on 35th west of Wentworth, which has a 30-mile-per-hour speed limit.
CDOT plans to use “quick implementation techniques, including new pavement markings and delineators” and “will be collecting speed-volume data before and after implementation,” according to a statement from the agency.
Victim Calls For Pedestrian Bridge To Be Installed
Sox fan Chuck Janczy is recovering from about a dozen minor fractures — from his ribs to his spine to right arm and thumb — that he suffered when he was hit by the car, “tumbled in the air” and went partially through its sunroof.
Janczy, 64, said he was crossing 35th Street when he was suddenly hit. “I never even saw the car,” Janczy said.
His recollection from there is foggy, but Janczy said he next remembers being stuck in the sunroof as a passenger in the car asked him repeatedly if he was OK. State troopers soon stopped the vehicle on the Dan Ryan Expressway and arrested the driver, Janczy said.
Janczy, an avid runner, said he was rushed to the ER and spent 36 hours in the hospital meeting with specialists. He’s kept his spirits up, received well-wishes from friends new and old but is “walking with a limp. I’m very slow and some movements are a little painful.”
He wrote to Lee about traffic concerns on 35th Street, suggesting building an elevated bridge for pedestrians.
Janczy described the crossway as “dangerous, it absolutely is.” He didn’t use the Gate 5 overpass that day because he was meeting friends outside another gate.
“I’d say I’m for closing 35th Street entirely, but I understand it could be problematic for traffic elsewhere and that could make it extremely difficult to implement,” Janczy said.
Now back at home, Janczy said he’s been watching only a little bit of White Sox games, “because those can be painful, too.”
He returned to the ballpark for the first time Saturday.
“No need for a big welcome, though,” Janczy said. “I like to keep it low-key.”
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