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updated: 7/27/2011 6:44 AM

Lake Zurich hit-and-run sparks road safety concerns

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  • People gather around the spot where Gabriella Drozdz, 18 of Lake Zurich, was killed last Friday night by a hit-and-run driver. This stretch of Church Street in Lake Zurich very dark.

       People gather around the spot where Gabriella Drozdz, 18 of Lake Zurich, was killed last Friday night by a hit-and-run driver. This stretch of Church Street in Lake Zurich very dark.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • People gather around the spot where Gabriella Drozdz was killed last Friday night by a hit-and-run driver. This stretch of Church Street in Lake Zurich very dark.

       People gather around the spot where Gabriella Drozdz was killed last Friday night by a hit-and-run driver. This stretch of Church Street in Lake Zurich very dark.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
By Danielle Gensburg

Lake Zurich-area officials say they plan to discuss ways to increase pedestrian and traffic safety along a stretch of Church Street where a teenager was killed after a hit-and-run accident last week.

The stretch of two-lane road across from Lake Zurich High School where 18-year-old Gabriella Drozdz was killed and two friends were injured lacks sufficient lighting and a sidewalk at certain points, police said.

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"Now that there's been an accident and a tragedy, improvements to the road are something to look into," said State Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr., a Mundelein Republican. "I will be reaching out to the mayor of Lake Zurich to see what can be done to improve safety."

Mayor Suzanne Branding said the state has jurisdiction over the road.

"It would be a state decision," Branding said. "I would expect that the issue will probably be looked into and addressed in the future, especially with the high school down the road."

Lake Zurich Police Chief Patrick Finlon agrees.

"Our biggest issue is during the school year when kids are around," Finlon said. "The speed goes down and the volume of traffic increases."

In 2010, state officials approved a traffic light at the entrance to the high school, but it isn't scheduled to be installed until 2013.

"The process is in the phase I design phase," Branding said.

The project cost is about $780,000, of which $480,000 will be paid with a federal grant. The village and Lake Zurich Unit District 95 will split the remaining $300,000, she said.

Speed is not an issue on the road, Finlon said, and a sidewalk will help safety but come with certain costs.

"You'd have maintenance issues and cost issues," he said.

However, the main initiative now is to discuss ways to prevent such a tragedy from ever repeating itself, said Sullivan, whose district includes the road.

"The ultimate goal is to not have this happen again. We need to work cooperatively across jurisdictions, and part of those discussions will be the different options available," he said.

Drozdz and her friends Rosie Fitts, 16, and Vanessa Fitts, 18, were hit from behind by an SUV while they walked on the shoulder of Church Street toward Alpine Fest around 9:30 p.m. Friday.

Lake Zurich police continue to search for the driver of the SUV, who fled the scene after the accident.

A news release Monday asked residents for information about a light colored SUV with an Illinois license plate mounted on the rear hatch that was last seen driving erratically on eastbound Route 22 near Quentin Road.

A "Remembering Gabby Drozdz" fund has been set up by family and friends at the Chase Bank at 1289 S. Rand Road, Lake Zurich. It seeks donations to help the family and for a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of the SUV driver.

Contributions can also be made to other Chase branches in Lake Zurich and surrounding towns.

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