Four women-turned-activists have a time-sensitive mission: getting St. Clair County to install a traffic stoplight at the intersection of Old Vincennes Trail and Borchers Lane before a fatality occurs.
They consider the intersection dangerous and have gathered support in a short time. They pledge not to stop until results happen.
Since August, Debbie LaFreniere, Sandy Hildebrandt, Millie Erb and Julie Spengler have knocked on doors, started a Facebook page, made people aware of an online petition, and showed up at several local government board and committee meetings to speak up about the issue.
“We call ourselves a team,” Sandy Hildebrandt said.
A resident of Borchers Lane for 41 years and a native of O’Fallon, she became involved when LaFreniere came to her house. She offered her support right away.
“I know all the residents. The no. 1 goal is safety. People take their life into their hands trying to get out of the intersection,” she said.
Because of the increased traffic due to area growth, the situation needs immediate action, she said.
“Scott-Troy Road used to be a country lane. Now it is a corridor. It is always busy,” she said. Vincennes Trail is one of two major east access roads for O’Fallon.
She said Borchers Lane currently has a two-way stop sign.
Supporters attended the Sept. 17 O’Fallon City Council meeting. A resident not known to the group voiced his concerns about the intersection, telling aldermen: “There are close calls all the time. Somebody’s going to get killed.”
The group calls themselves representatives of the Stoplight Campaign. To date, they have 400 signatures, but hope to gather 500. The online petition is at the website, www.change.org.
“We have received support from all the residents of the Braeswood villas. We always get 100 percent participation. Everyone is for us,” Hildebrandt said.
They have received support from O’Fallon Township and O’Fallon City Council at their meetings, and plan to go to the O’Fallon public works committee meeting Sept. 24. Rich Meile is the chair, and David Cozad vice chair. Members are Matthew Gilreath, Robert Kueker, Andrew Lopinot and Gwen Randolph.
St. Clair County is the key to the stoplight becoming a reality because they have final say.
“They have ignored us,” she said.
Hildebrandt said they have a copy of a letter Mayor Gary Graham wrote in 2015 to Mark Kern, St. Clair County Board Chairman, seeking support for a traffic signal, but there was no documented response.
The Stoplight Campaign has been in contact with the county engineer Norm Etling, who has cited the traffic study in 2014. The county position is that, according to a warrant, conditions for changing traffic control have not been met.
A warrant is a condition that an intersection must meet to justify a signal installation. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices specifies eight traffic control signal needs studies.
They have contacted the County Board member that oversees that area, Nick Miller, and he has been supportive of their plight, she said.
Because of the intersection’s location, it is a complicated jurisdiction. O’Fallon annexed Borchers Lane when the Villas of Braeswood development was approved several years ago.
The O’Fallon council is considering a resolution in support of traffic control at the intersection, and adoption will be up for approval Oct. 1.
The O’Fallon Township has written a letter of support signed by all the trustees and sent to St. Clair County.
“These people are really trying to help us. We are encouraged by all the support,” she said. “We’re going to keep going.”