Q: About five years ago, a BND article said they were going to widen I-57 in Illinois from I-64 at Mount Vernon to I-24 south of Marion from two lanes to three both north and south. The article said the project would take 10 years. There’s maybe a 7-mile stretch that has had that third lane added, but there has been no other work. Could you give us an update?
R.H., of Belleville
A: Metro-east folks who use I-57 to zip down to Kentucky and points south won’t like this, but those expansion dreams are on a road to nowhere. Guy Tridgell at the Illinois Department of Transportation tells me that at the moment there are no plans to resume work for at least six years.
As you obviously remember, it was an idea that was talked about long before the first shovel broke ground. Even back in 2006, IDOT and the Illinois State Police were trumpeting the need for a third lane because of a chronic rash of serious accidents occurring on that roughly 50-mile stretch.
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According to IDOT statistics, the road back then was handling an average of 34,000 vehicles per day, a substantial increase from the turn of the century. (I-57 is the main north-south artery from Cairo to Chicago.) IDOT was forecasting a 2.5 percent increase in traffic per year, bringing its estimate to 57,000 vehicles per day by 2026.
“Our projections show that if we don’t get a third lane added in that area by 2015, we will begin to see a poor level of service in the higher traffic areas,” Carrie Nelson, an IDOT engineer said at the time. “In 20 years, we could have nearly 20,000 semi trucks per day. We’re approaching a time we will definitely need the third lane.”
So it was with great pride and hope that Mount Vernon Mayor Mary Jane Chesley announced in early 2011 the start of a two-year, $30 million project to add a third lane to 4.7 miles of I-57 near her city.
“This is the first part of the I-57 corridor,” she said then. “We are the first city to be able to take advantage of this corridor of opportunity.”
So far, though, opportunity has knocked only once. Even then, Nelson was cautioning commuters that even though there was talk of doing the entire stretch, it had not been scheduled.
“It’s a long-range plan,” Nelson said in 2011. “But no funding has been appropriated for the further expansion. We are making small steps forward. When we work on a bridge, we do make sure it’s big enough to accommodate any future expansion.”
But there’s no indication the project will ever cast off these baby shoes. Tridgell says the widening is not included in IDOT’s current multiyear plan, which runs through fiscal year 2022.
Q: Can you tell me where to buy vinyl records?
Diane, of Belleville
A: If you want to stay on this side of the river, may I suggest one place you may have heard of — Slackers at 10900 Lincoln Trail in Fairview Heights (618-394-7777) — and one you may not be as familiar with — Rich’s Record Emporium at 131 W. Main St. in Collinsville (618-200-9287)? Specializing in primarily new vinyl albums, Rich’s promises a solid selection of jazz, classical, classic rock and blues along with specialty recordings — and some fine equipment to play them on. Check them out at www.richsrecordemporium.com and www.slackers.com/fairview.
If you’re adventuresome, you’re bound to find something tempting among the stacks of wax in St. Louis at Vintage Vinyl, 6610 Delmar Blvd.; Euclid Records, 19 N. Gore in Webster Groves; The Record Exchange, 5320 Hampton; and a place that gets rave reviews from a friend of mine, V-Stock (www.vintagestock.com) in the South County Shopping Center. Search www.yelp.com for more and happy listening!
Day of the living dead?
My recent column about Dr. Robert Cornish’s efforts to resurrect the dead nearly a century ago bought an interesting email from Ira Pastor, CEO of Bioquark Inc. in Philadelphia.
As posted on the National Institutes of Health website, his company recently received approval for a study that will focus on what Pastor calls a novel approach to reverse brain death in humans. It will enroll 20 subjects at Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand India, and the company hopes it will lead to advances in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other disorders as well.
“While humans lack substantial regenerative capabilities in the central nervous system, many non-human species can repair, regenerate and remodel substantial portions of their brain and brain stem even after critical life-threatening trauma,” Pastor said.
“We are at a very unique moment in history where the convergence of the tools of regenerative biology, resuscitation/reanimation research, and clinical neuroscience have placed us on the verge of major scientific breakthroughs. This represents the first trial of its kind and another step closer to the reversal of death in our lifetime.”
Thanks to Scott Oliva, of Edwardsville, for pointing out a frightening error in that same Cornish column. In one of my rare attempts at brevity, I referred to Boris Karloff as playing Frankenstein in the 1931 movie classic. As any true fan of trivia or horror films (including myself) knows, the monster has no name. It was his creator who was Dr. Frankenstein. (That’s FrankenSTINE. Sorry, Gene.) Fortunately, I’ve seen no villagers with torches and pitchforks coming up my street. Thanks for the reprieve, Scott.
Low dropout rate
Following up on my attempt to explain Belleville’s electrical aggregation program, Jamie Maitret, the city’s finance director, called to say that only about 8 percent of city residents choose to opt out of the program.
A final salute
Say farewell to retiring Belleville Philharmonic conductor Robert Charles Howard during a concert at 7:30 tonight (Saturday) at Union United Methodist Church, 721 E. Main St., Belleville. After 21 memorable seasons, he’ll be closing his career with a concert of American music that includes Aaron Copland’s powerful “Lincoln Portrait” and Howard’s own “Wilderness Reflections.” Tickets are $10-$18.
What two men fathered Cleopatra’s four children?
Answer to Friday’s trivia: Most people likely know that “oriental” is often used as a general term to describe the lands and culture of the countries of Asia, particularly eastern Asia. The word evolved from “oriens” or “orient-,” the Latin word for “rising sun” or “east.” But did you know that the opposite is “occidental,” geographically speaking at least? It comes from the Latin “occidere,” which means “to set (like the sun).” So to the Romans, the sun rose in the east (orient) and set in the west (occident).