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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Speed kills well not this type of speed

Nearly 90 percent of interstate highway miles in Illinois will have 70-mph speed limits starting Wednesday, state transportation officials announced Friday, but the sponsor of the law raising the limits is upset almost all existing posted speeds in the Chicago area will remain unchanged and he vowed to push for them to be higher.

Drivers on almost 1,900 of the state's nearly 2,170 miles of interstate will be able to travel at 70 mph instead of the existing speed limits, generally 65 along rural highways, after crews post the new speed limit signs — weather permitting — Jan. 2-17, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

But only about 30 percent of the Illinois Tollway's 286-mile network will get the higher speed limit, according to a map released by IDOT. And in the Chicago area, the 70-mph limit will be posted only on five fairly short stretches of interstate. Those are sections of I-80 and I-55 in Will County, a stretch of I-57 in far southern Cook County and all of Will County, a portion of the I-88 toll road in far western Kane County and part of the I-94 tollway in northern Lake County.

"It's unacceptable," said State. Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, who sponsored the bill that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law in August. Oberweis said he was upset that IDOT, which had the authority to draw up the speed limit map, left unchanged the 55-mph speed limit across virtually all of the Chicago region. "They're putting law-abiding citizens into danger."

"It's quite clear" that 85 percent of vehicles are traveling at 70 mph or faster on almost all expressways, Oberweis said, and that the variation between the 55-mph legal limit and 70-mph higher speed is a significant factor in crashes. Oberweis, who is running for U.S. Senate, owns a family dairy company that runs trucks on the highways.

The IDOT map was released two weeks after a Chicago Tribune analysis showed the actual speed limit — the point at which most motorists are ticketed on interstates in the six-county Chicago region — is about 80 mph. Earlier Tribune research showed 9 of 10 cars on the tollway disregard and exceed the 55-mph speed limit. The average speed in those stretches was 66-70 mph, Tribune research found.

"It's just clear that they (IDOT) are disregarding the will of the people." Oberweis said, adding that the interstates are designed to handle vehicles traveling 70 mph and speed limits were set at that level before the federal government imposed a national 55-mph limit in 1974. That limit was scrapped in 1995, and states across the U.S. have been raising highway speed limits since then.

In a statement, IDOT said the new speeds will be placed on interstate stretches "where deemed reasonable and safe." Department spokesman Paris Ervin said the agency conducted traffic engineering studies of all locations with limits below the existing 65-mph maximum and "other locations deemed necessary."

IDOT considered the widely accepted 85th percentile — the speed at which 85 percent of the traffic is traveling at or below — and "additional considerations" on those stretches before reaching its recommendations, Ervin said.

"IDOT's top priority is the safety of those using our transportation system," she added. The department and Illinois Tollway will continue reviewing "any roadway speed limit as needed, including monitoring changing traffic behaviors and the completion of construction projects," the agency's statement reported.

Oberweis said he will try to bring his push for 70-mph Chicago-area speed limits to the legislature and may settle on a 65-mph limit.

"It's a safe, reasonable and consistent speed," Oberweis said of 70 mph.

Mr. Potatohead named ccw appeals board

Gov. Pat Quinn on Friday named former federal prosecutors, FBI agents and judges to a seven-member panel to review objections raised by law enforcement to people who apply to carry a concealed firearm under the state’s new law.

The move is the latest step to put in place the state’s new concealed carry law, a legislative compromise enacted last summer after a federal appeals court ruled Illinois had to give up its status as the last state in the nation to ban possession of firearms in public.

Under the law, people apply for concealed carry permits and police departments can object to the application. The review panel hears appeals of those objections and is supposed to decide within 30 days whether the applicant poses a danger to themselves or others or is a threat to public safety.

The panel’s membership represents the state’s five judicial districts, including three from Cook County, and is supposed to include commissioners with judicial, prosecutorial, criminal justice and mental health treatment experience.
Appointed from the First District were Robinzina Bryant of Flossmoor, who spent a decade as a special agent with the FBI in Chicago and St. Louis; Dr. James Lewis Cavanaugh of Winnetka, a professor of psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center and a behavioral risk analyst; and Virginia Wright of Palatine, who served as a special agent with the FBI for 24 years in New York, New Haven and Chicago.

Sergio Acosta of Elmhurst was picked to represent the Second District, which includes the west suburbs and north and northwestern Illinois. Acosta is the former Illinois Gaming Board administrator, a partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson and once headed the general crimes section of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago.

For the Third Judicial District, which includes Will County and north central Illinois, Quinn named John Diwik of Naperville, a criminal investigator with Amtrak’s office of inspector general and a former FBI special agent.

From the Fourth Judicial District, made up of central Illinois, Quinn named Patrick Chesley, a private attorney who served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Springfield for nearly 30 years. Chesley previously worked in the state attorney general’s office.

Representing the Fifth Judicial District, covering southern Illinois, Quinn named recently retired federal judge G. Patrick Murphy of Williamson County.

Quinn called his choices “highly qualified and committed individuals” who will “carry out their duties diligently to protect public safety.” The initial appointments, which require Senate confirmation, are for a term that ends Jan. 12, 2015. The positions pay $37,571 a year.

Wildabeast escaped zoo in Chicago winter

Shootings early this morning have left a 23-year-old man dead and four other people injured, according to police.

The fatal shooting happened about 4:10 a.m. in the 4500 block of Indiana Avenue. Police said two male shooters stepped out of a dark-colored sedan and opened fire on a 23-year-old man walking on the sidewalk.

The man was struck multiple times but managed to run to a vacant lot before collapsing, according to police.

He died on the scene.

No suspects are in custody as Area Central detectives investigate the killing.

In the most recent shooting, a 23-year-old man was shot in the buttocks as he stood on the sidewalk in the 5700 block of South Laflin Street.

Police said the man was in serious condition at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Earlier, a 20-year-old man was shot in the lower abdomen after stepping out of a vehicle into a gangway in the 6400 block of South Homan Avenue, police said. The man was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and listed in serious condition.

About 2:50 a.m., a 25-year-old man was shot in the 4300 block of South Western Avenue. The man was walking down the sidewalk when he heard gunfire and realized he was shot.

The man sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where his condition was stabilized.

About 1:10 a.m., a 23-year-old woman drove herself to St. Anthony Hospital after being shot in the arm. The woman told police she had been shot while sitting in a vehicle at a stoplight in the 2800 block of West 31st Street.

The woman did not provide police with a description of the shooter or the vehicle the shooter was traveling in.