Work zone safety is “a top priority throughout the year,” according to a statement issued Thursday by the Illinois Department of Transportation in response to questions about a deadly construction zone on Interstate 55 between the Edwardsville and Hamel exits.
Two fatal accidents involving multiple vehicles have occurred since construction began in late October to replace bridge decking on the flat, straight stretch of Interstate 55.
Illinois State Police have identified the semi driver in the fatal crash Friday as Richard Jordan, 53, of Lewistown. Jordan was driving a 2011 Volvo truck and pulling a semitrailer when he looked down to get his tea and hit a passenger vehicle, leading to a series of crashes that killed a woman and seriously injured two other people.
Calvin Dye, spokesperson for ISP, said the investigation is ongoing and no charges have been filed. The investigation also continues in the Nov. 21 crash that lead to the deaths of four women, including two sisters from Staunton.
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After the first fatal accident, ISP and IDOT officials met to add safety measures to the area, the ISP spokesman said.
“We had officers in that zone during that (Dec. 15) crash,” Dye said.
Federal funding will help ISP patrol the construction zone through the end of the year, working “strictly” in that zone, Dye said.
“Part of this effort involves working with multiple partners, including the various trucking associations, to help get out the word that any work zone represents a potentially dangerous situation,” wrote Kelsea Gurski, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, by email.
State Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, has sent a letter to IDOT about the work zone, saying “clearly, there is a problem.” Manar said his office has taken hundreds of calls and emails about the work zone.
Interstate 55 is now on a crossover pattern, where both northbound and southbound traffic is in what previously had been the northbound lanes, to allow for bridge deck repair on the southbound lanes. Gurski’s email said all traffic will be on the northbound lanes through late spring; the entire project is expected to last through September.
IDOT also stated that the agency has added signs, message boards and rumble strips to the construction zone since the first accident Nov. 21. In addition, Illinois State Police troopers are adding patrols in the area in both northbound and southbound lanes.