DANVILLE — The first phase of major safety improvements at a Griffin Street railroad crossing where a 13-year-old boy was struck and killed more than two years ago is slated to begin Thursday.
When the project is finished, warning gates and dedicated pedestrian crossings will eventually be added at the crossing where North Ridge Middle School seventh-grader Deon Jackson was fatally clipped by the train while riding his bicycle on June 30, 2017.
Eric Childers, assistant city engineer in Danville, said the entire project will be done in two phases, with the city’s part coming first. That work, which is estimated to cost $98,000, will see contractor Cross Construction install barrier curbing and new sections of sidewalk, complete drainage work and re-slope pavement up to the crossing on one side.
That will require the closure, beginning Thursday, of the section of Griffin between Mabin and Fairchild streets. Contractors anticipate the closure continuing until Nov. 22, with only local traffic being permitted north of the crossing.
In the second phase, CSX will install additional safety equipment, including crossing gates for both vehicles and pedestrians. The railroad will also add flashers and upgrade the circuitry that triggers the safety equipment.Childers said CSX officials have indicated that it will do its phase of work after the first of the year.
More than a dozen trains a day travel the CSX line that crosses Griffin in the same block as the Boys and Girls Club of Danville, which is located in Garfield Park, also home to the city’s municipal pool.
The crossing currently has signal lights but no gates for vehicles and no dedicated pedestrian crossings with gates.
Childers said the combination of vehicle and pedestrian gates is not as common outside of larger urban areas, but because of this crossing’s proximity to the Boys and Girls Club and a high amount of pedestrian traffic, CSX decided to install additional equipment.
A civil lawsuit filed in June 2018 by Tonya Strong, Deon’s mother, seeking damages from CSX and the city is still progressing in Vermilion County Circuit Court and is scheduled for a hearing Thursday, the same day the project begins. Strong’s attorney, Kaylan Huber, confirmed that the hearing is to address a motion for dismissal from the city.
After the 2017 tragedy, Danville officials had a safety analysis conducted on all crossings in the city, including the one at Griffin.
The results were submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission, which led to an agreement among the commission, CSX and the city that identified nearly $700,000 in improvements that could be made. Those included new crossing signals with flashing lights, bells and crossing arms; warning signs leading up to the crossing; newly painted “RxR” markings on the pavement approaches; the clearing of trees, brush and overhanging limbs in the railroad right of way; and the addition of 6-inch barrier curbing and medians to further restrict vehicles and pedestrians.