Granddaughter of man who died urges officials to improve safety
By Ed Nadolski
Editor in Chief
Autumn Hoffman believes her grandfather might still be alive if there was a lighted crosswalk in the area of the new Kwik Trip store on South Pine Street.
Motivated by that notion – and a desire to prevent other tragic incidents in the future – Hoffman is working to get City of Burlington officials to take a look at safety in that area.
Mayor Bob Miller said Tuesday the city is all ears. In fact, he said, Burlington’s engineering consultant is already looking at options to place a crosswalk near the new convenience store and gas station that opened last fall on the city’s south side.
Hoffman’s grandfather, Joseph Hauswirth, 77, died Jan. 13, two days after being struck by a car driven by a woman from Crystal Lake, Ill., as he walked across Pine Street to return home from Kwik Trip.
“At Christmastime we were standing outside and we talked about how someone is going to get hit crossing the street there,” Hoffman said, noting that many cars are traveling faster than the 35 mph speed limit.
Another relative remarked to Hauswirth that he better be careful or he was going to get hit, Hoffman said.
Hauswirth, who also owned a home on Eagle Lake, lived with his wife, Janell Arneson, in the Spring Brook Condominiums across from Kwik Trip.
“He was so happy it was built there so he could walk to the store,” Hoffman said.
She said she’s willing to go door-to-door in the Spring Brook residential area with a petition urging city officials to install a crosswalk.
Whether or not a designated crosswalk would have saved Hauswirth’s life, will likely never be known.
City Police Chief Peter Nimmer said there were extenuating circumstances involving both the driver of the car and Hauswirth that led to the collision.
An investigation into the crash continues and could shed more light on the cause of the incident.
Hoffman still believes, however, that a designated crosswalk would have made a difference.
“It’s sad that it happened to my grandpa, but what if it would have been a kid,” she said. “So who’s liable – who makes the decision on a crosswalk.”
Hoffman contends the city should’ve shown more foresight and realized the new store would be an attraction for residents of the growing residential neighborhood on the west side of Pine Street.
“They should have put a crosswalk in before Kwik Trip opened,” she said. “I just don’t understand it.”
Miller said there is a functioning pedestrian crosswalk at the traffic signals just south of the Kwik Trip where Pine Street intersects with the Burlington bypass highway. The intersection is about 200 yards south of the gas station.
However, Miller acknowledged that as a practical matter, most people would likely choose to take their chances crossing the street at Kwik Trip without a crosswalk than to walk the distance needed to reach the traffic signals.
The city’s goal, he said, is to ensure safety, which may justify the cost of installing a dedicated crosswalk closer to the store.
“There are all kinds of things we’re looking at,” he said, noting that the most viable option seems to be a flashing crosswalk sign similar to the one installed in front of Veterans Terrace on Milwaukee Avenue.
The LED lights are solar powered and are activated by a push button that allows pedestrians to alert drivers of their presence.
Miller said the engineering firm will have to take a number of factors into consideration – namely the spacing between the crosswalk and the intersection with the bypass – as it attempts to determine the best location.
City Administrator Kevin Lahner said the cost of the crosswalk at Veterans Terrace was approximately $20,000.
“However, I do not know if the width of the street, speed, and other factors may make the installation at the Kwik Trip something different and potentially more expensive,” Lahner said.
Miller said the engineer’s recommendation will be submitted for consideration in the future. At that point the City Council will discuss the matter in a Committee of the Whole meeting before a final proposal is presented for formal consideration at a later date.
It will then be up to the City Council to decide where to get the money needed to pay for the crosswalk installation.
Whatever the solution, Hoffman said it couldn’t come too soon.