Watch CBS News

City Vows To Get Rid Of Dangerous Light Poles After CBS 2 Investigators Have Spent Years Documenting Them As They Fall Down, But Just When Will This Happen?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The CBS 2 Investigators have spent years digging into faulty light poles that get rusted out and end up falling over.

Now, the city has promised a fix, and is vowing to get rid of dangerous light poles. CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini on Wednesday put the city on the spot for hard numbers – and just when those light poles will be replaced.

To reach this point, it took seven years of numerous CBS 2 investigations into rusted poles with rusted bolts falling on cars and people.

"I really think it's a safety issue for anyone in the city of Chicago," said Maya Kirk.

Kirk was struck by a falling light pole while walking to work in the Loop on Nov. 21, 2019. She called out the City of Chicago for failing to maintain or repair light poles citywide.

"Are they going to wait until it kills somebody until they start fixing the problem?" Kirk said.

Kirk suffered serious injuries to her heard and leg when the pole snapped at its base as she walked past the State of Illinois' James R. Thompson Center, around 161 N. LaSalle St.

At the time, the CBS 2 Investigators had already exposed hundreds of complaints about falling or leaning poles causing property damage and injuries.

Even children were struck. One girl was hit by a light pole in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood in 2016. And years before that, in 2007, 13-year-old Noni Brown suffered a fractured neck when a light pole fell on her outside her school during recess.

Case after case was documented, yet the dilapidated poles still remained all over the city.

"That's my issue is I really want them to start taking some proactive measures so that they don't kill somebody," Kirk said.

Now, the city announced it is accelerating its effort to replace its bad or outdated poles with brand new light poles, foundations, and wiring – investing $112 million into pole replacements spanning 280 city blocks.

"That's approximately double our average of what we've doing the past few years," said Tom Carney, first deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

Carney added: "We're happy that we're making this infrastructure investment. It approves the livability in neighborhoods where you have new lighting. It's a long-term investment."

The CBS 2 Investigators have been documenting dangerous light poles since 2014. Since our reports, the city inspected every one of its 300,000 light poles.

Savini "How many poles need to be replaced immediately?"

Carney: "We've definitely have prioritized the worst of the worst."

Savini: "But currently - ballpark figure - how many need to be replaced immediately?"

Carney: "I don't know. I don't know. I'll have to look at the data."

Infrastructure experts tell the CBS 2 Investigators that light poles which sit on a metal box where all the wiring is housed have a design that creates the right conditions for accelerated rust. Moisture gets trapped inside from rain and snow along with road salt.

In Kirk's case, the light pole has da decorative cover that also traps moisture from rain and snow.

Since her injury, the city said it planned to repair or replace about 100 poles like the one that hit her.

"These poles can kill somebody," Kirk said, "and I just - I'm lucky to be alive."

The city failed to sand, paint, and maintain thousands of poles over the years. The new ones are made of aluminum, which don't corrode as fast.

Meanwhile, Kirk also filed a lawsuit against the city on account of her injuries.

As it stands now, the the city has to now turn over certain documents in the case, and city officials are being deposed to see why that pole fell.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.