A lack of overpasses at several railroad crossings continues to threaten the efficiency of emergency services on the west side of the 23rd Ward, according to aldermanic candidates in the area.
Chuck Maida, who is running for alderman in the ward and has worked as a police officer there for more than a decade, said a number of crossings cut off major arteries in the ward when occupied by trains. This, Maida said, can result in delayed emergency responses, especially in the ward’s western peninsula.
“If there’s a citizen calling 911 or an officer needing assistance, seconds feel like minutes, minutes feel like hours,” he said.
Anna Goral, another aldermanic candidate, called the issue “a huge problem,” adding that residents sometimes have to play a guessing game when they call 911.
“If we call 911, and if we’re lucky and the police patrol is somewhere in the area, we can get the response quicker,” Goral said. “But when you make the call, you never know how long the response will be.”
The candidates said areas prone to blockages include the intersections of Archer and Knox, 55th and Central, and 65th and Central.
“It’s a life and death situation, especially with ambulances,” Goral said, adding that she believes train-related delays could add 10 or 15 minutes to response times.
Robert Rooker III, another police officer in the Chicago Lawn District, said that while delays are not a regular occurrence and are not limited to the 23rd Ward, he has experienced them.
“It’s a bad feeling for an emergency vehicle to get maybe a block or two away from a call and have to wait until the train moves,” he said.
Overpasses are an obvious — and costly — solution, the candidates said.
“This is a huge project,” Goral said. “I believe that some federal and state funds have to be secured to address this issue.”
Incumbent Ald. Michael Zalewski couldn’t be reached for comment.