In the past three weeks, there have been three prominent traffic accidents in the construction zone on Interstate 55.
On Wednesday, July 17, a six-vehicle accident near Wilmington left a 68-year-old Roselle woman dead. A week later, on July 24, a four-vehicle accident near Channahon claimed the life of a 61-year-old man from Arlington Heights.
Then, this past Wednesday, four juveniles driving a stolen car were involved in a hit-and-run crash that did not result in any fatalities.
The two fatal crashes were apparently caused when vehicles could not stop in time and slammed into the stopped cars in front of them.
Craig Cassem, highway engineer for Grundy County, said he was not aware of any reason for the crashes particular to that construction area, but believes the accidents are reminders of basic highway safety.
“Obviously, it’s important to pay attention,” Cassem said. “Slow down. Pay attention to the signs.”
There are signs everywhere, Cassem continued, and construction areas are clearly marked.
“The signing has probably gotten more stringent over the years,” Cassem said.
The Interstate 55 project has led to often significant traffic jams.
Cassem said its role as a prominent truck route can add to the traffic.
“There’s always going to be a ton of trucks [on Interstate 55],” Cassem said. “If you can, take side roads.”
That will be advice to be heeded in other areas in and around the county in the not-too-distant future.
In July, Gov. Pat Quinn announced $7.9 million in capital investments for upcoming construction projects in Grundy and Livingston counties, with some anticipated to begin as early as September.
Three patching projects, all of which will be done by G.M. Sipes Construction Inc., will begin next month.
One will be done on Interstate 55, from the Livingston County line to the Will County line, and will cost $283,865. Another will occur on Interstate 80, from the Seneca interchange to Illinois 47 in Morris, and will cost $134,001.
The other will be done on Interstate 55, from the McLean County line to the Grundy County line, and will cost $205,519.
Another project — a new four-lane bridge to carry Minooka Road over Interstate 80, just west of Minooka — is anticipated to begin some time next year and will cost $6,989,000.
“D” Construction Inc., of Coal City, will perform the work.
The Illinois Department of Transportation will administer the projects.
Joe Spika, construction field engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the patching projects are not major and are not expected to take more than a couple weeks each.
Work will be done at night for the Interstate 80 project to minimize the impact on traffic, Spika said, but there will be lane closures.
According to Spika, the bridge project expected next year will require Minooka Road to be closed at some point in the process.
The projects are part of the governor’s “Illinois Jobs Now!” program, which looks to create 439,000 jobs over six years in the state.
In a statement, Quinn billed the area projects as a way to improve infrastructure while creating local jobs.
“These construction projects will improve safety and efficiency in Grundy and Livingston counties,” Quinn said. “Additionally, they will employ a number of construction workers, which will help the local economy as well.”