Heavy traffic

Hoping to reduce accidents, city plans left turn lanes along MacArthur, Lawrence

click to enlarge Springfield Public Works Director Nate Bottom (left) and Fuhrmann Engineering project engineer Matt Smith (right) speak with resident Jim Dickey about diagrams outlining proposed changes along MacArthur Boulevard at an open house meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church Dec. 6. - PHOTO BY KENNETH LOWE
PHOTO BY KENNETH LOWE
Springfield Public Works Director Nate Bottom (left) and Fuhrmann Engineering project engineer Matt Smith (right) speak with resident Jim Dickey about diagrams outlining proposed changes along MacArthur Boulevard at an open house meeting at Westminster Presbyterian Church Dec. 6.

In response to a consistently high number of car accidents in a residential area of the city, Springfield has begun the preliminary work of adding left turn lanes near the intersections of MacArthur Boulevard and Lawrence Avenue, along with Walnut Street and Lawrence Avenue.

"These are two of our higher-accident intersections that are local streets," said Public Works director Nate Bottom. "We'll be able to have a dedicated turn lane which improves safety and will also improve the sight distance for those making that left turn. They'll be able to see further down and hopefully avoid anybody running a red light."

The intersection at MacArthur Boulevard and Lawrence Avenue can have as many as 25 car accidents a year. For those who live nearby, or along the stretch of MacArthur between Lawrence and South Grand Avenue that includes the Williams Street crossing at Washington Park, it's not a surprising statistic.

Erika Hanson, a resident of Fayette Street who lives within just a few houses of MacArthur Boulevard, said traffic going by her street and along MacArthur Boulevard is a safety concern for an area with lots of foot traffic. She spoke with Illinois Times shortly after attending a Dec. 6 open house meeting hosted by Bottom, city traffic engineer T.J. Heavisides and representatives of Fuhrmann Engineering at Westminster Presbyterian Church, where residents and owners of property in the area came to see details about the plan and leave public comments.

Though Hanson commended the city for taking steps to improve traffic flow, she said the city should also include some kind of light and pedestrian crosswalk where Williams Street meets the eastern entrance to Washington Park.

"My concern is that there is no stoppage between Lawrence and South Grand," Hanson said after attending the public meeting. "They should have something there, for people trying to go across Williams. You have cross-country kids and mothers with strollers. Washington Park is a gem, but they can't get across the street."

The plan will involve widening pavement along the stretches of roadway. According to a document the city provided on the project, the precise scope of improvements will depend on the city's engineering analysis of the project and public input.

The issue of traffic along MacArthur Boulevard in particular was recently brought into the spotlight in August after Springfield resident and former IT reporter Dusty Rhodes became the victim of a hit-and-run accident that left her severely injured and claimed the life of her dog at the intersection of MacArthur Boulevard and Fayette Avenue. Since then, motorists traveling along MacArthur Boulevard between Lawrence Avenue and South Grand Avenue have seen speed monitoring stations, temporary lane markings to test out new traffic flow patterns and temporary electronic signage entreating drivers to slow down.

Also attending the meeting were Amy Jackson and her husband, Mike, who rent out a property on the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and Lawrence Avenue. While tidying up the front stoop, Amy Jackson was once nearly hit by a car. They said that besides attempts to make the roadway safer for cars, an effort needs to be made to improve sidewalks and make travel in the area safer for pedestrians, too.

"Improving speed is not the problem," Amy Jackson said. "Everybody is already going over the speed limit all the time."

The project's preliminary engineering phase is already underway, with completion estimated by mid-to-late 2023. The city plans to make use of Highway Safety Improvement Program and motor fuel tax funding to pay for the project.

Kenneth Lowe is a staff writer for Illinois Times. Contact him at klowe@illinoistimes.com.

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