By Jermont Terry
CHICAGO (WBBM) — The Chicago Department of Transportation has plans to replace more than 400 light poles before the year is over – a pole that fell onto a sport-utility vehicle Friday in Streeterville is on the list.
But it turns out when the pole at Grand Avenue and Columbus Drive came crashing down Friday night, it reminded someone on the Southwest Side of what she experienced. Yet she didn’t get a dime from the city.
“I was like, this can’t keep happening,” Brenda Valedez told CBS 2’s Jermont Terry.
Valedez remains in disbelief about another light pole falling onto a vehicle last week.
“They do need to step it up,” she said. “I mean, something needs to be done.”
Standing at 82nd Place and Scottsdale Avenue on the city’s Southwest Side takes her back to her own frightening experience in March 2019.
“A rain of glass. I put my hands over my head. I was ducking down,” Valedez said.
The car roof inched closer to Valedez’s head after a heavy streetlight toppled onto her Honda.
Terry: “Had it been closer towards the front; had you been a little slower?
Valedez: “I would’ve been seriously injured or possibly even been killed.”
She walked away. Three years later, she is upset to see and hear of more rusty streetlights still crashing down.
“If it’s properly installed and maintained, there’s absolutely no reason why a whole light pole would fall,” Valedez said.
But CBS 2 has been exposing the problem of dangerous falling light poles across Chicago for years. When the CBS 2 Investigators examined the city’s light pole survey, we found that despite paying an agency in 2017 and 2018 to tell the city which poles are dangerous, many of those highlighted in the survey have not been fixed yet.
That includes the light pole that fell Friday night.
“In my instance, I guess they said, ‘Well, there was never any calls; there was no proof to show that this pole was rusted,” Valedez said.
Her car got wrecked when the light pole fell, and she tried to get the city to repay her deductible – which she described as “a measly $400.” Valedez happens to be a City of Chicago worker and has been for 20 years.
“Because it was a windy day, I was just told that it was an act of nature,” she said.
And her claim was denied.
The Chicago Department of Transportation said it is also on track to replace about another 430 decaying light poles in the city by the end of 2022. Following the survey, CDOT said it has replaced 2,007 light poles to date that had a “concerning amount of rust” – yet 22,000 poles needed to be fixed citywide.
“Somebody needs to be held accountable,” Valedez said. “Something needs to be done.”
Valedez said she is thankful that no one was injured Friday night in Streeterville, nor in her own case on the Southwest Side three years ago. But she worries that others will not be so fortunate – as some indeed have not been as it is.
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