CARBONDALE — As Gary Starks begins 30 months in prison for striking and killing a 5-year-old while speeding on North Wall Street, near Attucks Park, Carbondale city leaders are taking action to ensure the tragedy isn’t repeated.
Starks was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court, said Jackson County State’s Attorney Michael Carr, in a news release.
He hit Amar Philippe, of De Soto, while the child was crossing the street near Attucks in August 2018.
After the crash, residents of Carbondale’s northeast side took action, delivering a 200-signature petition to the Carbondale City Council to ask for speed humps along Wall Street.
The city responded with three speed studies, tracking more than 65,000 drivers along the roadway.
Between 23 and 33 percent of them were traveling above 35 mph, the studies found, and Carbondale Mayor Mike Henry committed to reducing speeds between the park and nearby Thomas School by the beginning of next school year.
That work should soon begin soon, Henry said, as the Carbondale City Council is poised to approve $42,331.08 in safety upgrades at Tuesday’s meeting.
Speed bumps, city staff decided, were not an ideal solution for the highly-trafficked street.
Though effective at slowing cars, they increase emergency vehicle response times and complicate drainage, plowing and street resurfacing.
Instead, the city plans to narrow the street’s lanes, add bike lanes and enhance crosswalks, to provide more space and visibility to pedestrians.
“We’re going to do everything we discussed, in April, short of speed bumps,” Henry said. “If these measures don’t get people to slow down, we will go back and re-evaluate. We have to do everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The $42,331 will cover new lighting and signage for five existing mid-block crosswalks in the area, according to the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting.
Once installed, the upgraded crosswalks will resemble the one in front of the Southern Illinois University Rec Center on Grand Avenue, Henry said, with pedestrian-triggered warning lights.
The devices generally take about four to six weeks to arrive, once ordered, said Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams.
The traffic markings that will narrow lanes to approximately 11 feet and add bike lanes could be laid down even sooner, Williams said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council will also consider an ordinance to install a stop sign along the corridor, and to reduce the posted speed limit to 25 mph in the area.
“We just need to get a consensus from the council on what they want to go with,” Williams said, “and then we’ll get to work.”