April marks the official start of road construction and repair season. That will come as no surprise to anyone who travels roads and highways. The tell-tale orange barrels and pylons have been popping up along state and local thoroughfares in recent weeks, signaling that work crews will soon be toiling over designated projects.
Out on Interstate 74, which slices through Vermilion County and brushes up against Danville’s downtown area, notices went out recently that the right eastbound and westbound lanes of the expressway just west St. Joseph would be closing as work begins on a project that involves bridge repairs over the Salt Fork River and the Saline Branch.
Bridge projects are among the most common that travelers will encounter, and require lots of time and attention from contractors as they apply bridge deck overlays and substructure repairs. In this case, the current lane closures are scheduled to be completed by Labor Day, when construction will shift tot he left lanes. The entire project should be finished in November, when the work seasons comes to end.
The project is a big one and will impact interstate travel in the county for the entire time when traffic will be at its highest levels. It will mean that motorists can expect periodic delays when traveling through the area. For Danville folks, the trip to Champaign and other points west needs to be approached with extra caution.
As annoying as construction season can be, travelers must resist the temptation to let their aggravation make them less aware or cautious about increased traffic risks. Construction zones can be dangerous for motorists and workers, so extra attention is always required. Put down your mobile devices, keep your eyes on the road and slow down when you approach work areas.
Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman made this recent plea to motorists: “Whatever your mode of transportation, if you are traveling in Illinois this year, you will be passing through work zones. The people behind the cones and barricades are someone’s father, mother, son, daughter, friend or neighbor. Please slow down and give them room to work, for your safety and ours.”
Each year, more than 6,700 motor vehicle crashes on average occur in Illinois work zones, resulting in more than 1,600 injuries. In 2021, 25 people died in work zones in Illinois, none of which were workers, the first time that’s happened since 2015.
In addition to refraining from activities that can result in distracted driving, motorists are urged to obey signs in and around work zones, slow down, and be on the lookout for slowed or stopped traffic. Consider the limitations of heavy equipment, trucks and commercial vehicles. Provide them extra distance to stop if they are behind you.
No matter where you travel, be responsible behind the wheel. Be careful. Be safe.