Metro-East News

IDOT says crews were out before freezing rain arrived, but conditions made work difficult

Illinois Department of Transportation plow trucks.
Illinois Department of Transportation plow trucks.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation said crews were treating roads well before the arrival of Friday’s freezing rain, which made roadways hazardous across the metro-east region.

Crews were out ​Friday morning, in advance of the storm, IDOT spokesman Brian Williamsen said. But weather conditions made it difficult and dangerous for trucks to cover roads during the course of the storm.

“Our crews were out before and during the storm and continue to work to clear the roads,” Williamsen said Saturday morning. “They will be out (Saturday) and (Sunday), and as long as necessary to treat the roads to make them as safe as possible.”

He added, “Safety is a top priority at IDOT, and our crews work hard to keep the roads as safe as possible during winter storms.”

Dwayne Willingham, the supervisor of maintenance for the St. Clair County Highway Department, said Friday’s storm started early and came down fast.

“Really it was iffy on when it was coming,” Willingham said.

Willingham said it took himself more than an hour to get to the maintenance garage to direct crews.

By the time St. Clair County crews were treating the roads, precipitation had frozen to the roads, and the afternoon rush-hour traffic was at a standstill, making it difficult for trucks to put salt down, Willingham said.

To avoid the same issue ahead of Saturday evening’s weather, Willingham said he had crews salt county roads, including the more rural areas, ahead of the expected snow. That would prevent the precipitation from freezing to the surface.

“We wanted to get (salt) down to provide some traction for traffic,” Willingham said.

IDOT’s Williamsen said travel is discouraged during winter storm events. Motorists may encounter hazardous driving conditions and lengthy delays, and this was the case Friday night.

Before leaving for a trip in bad weather, Williamsen said motorists should ask: Is my trip necessary?

Some metro-east residents reported that their commutes Friday evening took hours. Some motorists were in stand-stills for two hours or more.

At some points, traffic was stopped on multiple interstates and state highways.