Metro-East News

Work zone safety urged as road construction season begins

Speaking in front of road construction equipment on a new ramp that will take motorists from the Poplar Street Bridge to eastbound Interstate 44 in St. Louis, transportation officials on Monday in yellow vests discussed the importance of work zone safety.

Representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, Missouri Department of Transportation, among others urged drivers to be attentive and slow down safety as the road construction season ramps up for the year.

They spoke at the base of a new ramp under construction from the Poplar Street Bridge to Interstate 44 east in St. Louis.

Last year, in Illinois there were more than 4,800 work-zone crashes, which led to more than 1,100 injuries and 29 deaths, said Jeff Church, the project implementation engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation District 8.

“Pay attention. Conditions change throughout the course of the work zone (including) lane shifts and closures, slow moving vehicles, and workers performing various activities,” Church said. “Therefore we need you to slow down and obey the posted speed limits, because traffic backups can occur at any time. Speeding and inattentiveness are two of the leading causes of work zone crashes, and this is unacceptable. Our message, is we want everyone to arrive at their destination safely.”

Church added IDOT will be using speed indicator signs ahead of work zones to help to remind drivers to slow down.

Last year, IDOT used the signs and found they had a 10 to 15 mph reduction in speed as motorists approached work zones.

Area IDOT projects for this construction season include a deck replacement on the Martin Luther King Bridge, work on Illinois 159 between Fountains Parkway in Fairview Heights and Rosewood Village Drive in Swansea, and Illinois 159 work from Johnson Street to Mounds Avenue in Collinsville.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is continuing work on the Poplar Street Bridge. Work on the bridge is set to include completion of a ramp from the bridge to eastbound I-44, Walnut Street and Washington Avenue.

Next month however, MoDOT plans to close a ramp from westbound I-44 to the Poplar Street Bridge and a ramp from the bridge to southbound I-55. In May, the Missouri Department of Transportation plans to reduce traffic on the westbound side of the bridge from two lanes to one, as resurfacing is planned during the summer, said Andrew Gates, spokesman for MoDOT.

Ted Nemsky, a construction engineer for IDOT, said the closure of the Martin Luther King Bridge is planned to take place after the new ramp from the Poplar Street Bridge to eastbound I-44 opens.

Illinois State Police District 11 Captain Joe Kollins urged drivers to pull over if they have to make phone call or send a text message while on the road. It is illegal in the state for drivers to use hand-held electronic devices while operating a vehicle.

In 2014, the Illinois State Police issued more than 14,800 distracted driving citations and more than 16,600 distracted driving warnings.

Throughout Illinois, state police plan to use photo speed enforcement vans, which are equipped with radar technology designed to record the speed of vehicles and take pictures of the driver and license plate, Kollins said. Signs will be in place in work zone where the photo van is being used.

“These signs will provide ample warning for the motoring public to slow down,” Kollins said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner also declared March 23-27 as Work Zone Safety Week.

Contact reporter Joseph Bustos at or 618-239-2451. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBReporter.