Since 2014, the intersection where Veterans Parkway (Interstate 55 Business) meets Empire Street (Illinois Route 9) has witnessed the most crashes of any intersection in Bloomington, IL, a city of nearly 80,000 residents and home to over 60,000 cars. Local leaders, residents, and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) all agree: something has to change. That's why IDOT tapped the expertise of Wight & Company's Transportation & Infrastructure team to perform a feasibility study of the intersection and provide alternative solutions, which were presented at a recent virtual public information meeting.
This ambitious project is built on a commitment to safety and transparency in all phases of work. With COVID rates still high, the team quickly and nimbly built a microsite to share project information; disseminated information on the virtual meeting via social, local radio, and newspaper ads; and produced a 45-minute video program (see below) that presented eight alternatives (including leaving it as-is) using modeling software designed to give viewers a realistic sense of how the intersection could look in the future. Wight & Company's Jake Hohl and Seth Johnson of Quigg Engineering, along with colleagues from IDOT, then fielded questions from the nearly 60 participants.
Local coverage in The Pentagraph emphasized participant's desire to see a reimagined intersection that's more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. Currently there are no pedestrian crosswalks. All seven alternatives include some form of a separate multi-use pathway. Kevin Kothe, Bloomington’s Director of Public Works, told WMBD-TV that “We do have some pedestrians out there so as a city we’ve advocated with IDOT to consider the pedestrians. We want it to be as safe as it can be, not only for the cars, but also pedestrians and bikes/other users that might be crossing it as well.”
Additional coverage from WGLT highlighted how the intersection's current landscape further contributes to driver confusion and leads to crashes: "Highway-style signs overhead create a perception of a high-speed area, while close intersections and high congestion convey a slow-speed area," Hohl explained during the public meeting.
No clear favorite alternative emerged in polling conducted during the public meeting, and the team continues to actively work to ensure that individuals have multiple means by which to take in project information and provide their feedback. The public is invited to view the video program, download the transcript, take the survey, view a comprehensive Q&A, and leave their input - which will become a part of the project's record - at www.VeteransParkwayOutreach.com.