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Traffic Pole Falls To Ground In Streeterville; Past Google Images Show It Has Been Rusted At Base For Years

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Another rusted-out city pole fell into a busy Chicago intersection Thursday, this time in Streeterville.

Faulty light poles are an issue the CBS 2 Investigators have spent years digging into. The city has promised a fix, vowing to get rid of dangerous light poles – but once again now, another has fallen.

CBS 2's Tara Molina brought the issue back to the city Thursday. Using Google Images, we found the pole that fell at Columbus Drive and Grand Avenue Thursday morning has looked questionable for years.

So Molina asked the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Mayor's office why nothing was done about it.

On Thursday morning, before the snow hit the Chicago area, the light pole was lying flat right in the middle of the intersection of Columbus and Grand.

Chicago Police and city crews surrounding the rusted-out pole – in a highly-trafficked area in Streeterville with a grocery store, bank, and hotel all nearby. Thankfully, no one was hurt when the light pole came crashing down.

That wasn't the case a couple of years ago, just a block away, when a pole fell onto a 25-year-old woman's Jeep at Illinois Street and McClurg Court. That incident left the woman, Isabella Keating, with the concussion, and resulted in a lawsuit against the city.

Before that, there was Maya Kirk, who 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.

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.

"I was just thinking that fell on me," Kirk told CBS 2. "How am I still here?"

Molina talked to the Chicago attorney still representing those two women. He said both of them want repair and reform - and feel neither have happened yet.

The faulty pole problem spurred the city to commission a $2.5 million audit years ago, where surveyors examined and graded every pole in Chicago - more than 300,000 of them.

The CBS 2 Investigators broke that audit down back in December and found 10 percent - more than 30,000 poles - were graded as having a concerning problem. But we analyzed all the poles with an address around the one that fell Thursday in Streeterville and found none with concerning grades.

We learned from the city that the particular pole that fell Thursday is a traffic pole, so it's not listed in that audit. CDOT said in a statement, "The survey for the Chicago Smart Lighting Program looked at streetlight poles specifically."

But Google Images show it has been rusted for years. An image in 2015 shows some rust on the bottom, and the same is seen in 2016, and in 2017 – when Google Images showed a much clearer image of a fully rusted base.

CBS 2's Molina asked the city if all poles were checked after the rusted-out pole fell a block away in 2020, if the pole at Grand and Columbus was ever inspected, and whether it was part of the audit or not.

Meanwhile, just last week, we got a news release from the city announcing they've finished up their streetlight modernization program. We were still waiting to find out from the city late Thursday whether they checked for structural damage on the poles as they switched out the bulbs.

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