© 2023 Peoria Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

A portion of East Peoria's East Washington Street could see a permanent lane reduction

 The current five lane configuration of East Washington St. between Cole and Interstate 74 in East Peoria would be reduced to three lanes in a road resurfacing project proposal.
Google Maps
The current five-lane configuration of East Washington Street, between Cole and Interstate 74 in East Peoria, would be reduced to three lanes in a road resurfacing project proposal.

The city of East Peoria is considering permanently reducing the number of lanes on a portion of East Washington Street as part of an upcoming resurfacing project.

The proposal would reduce the street down to one 12-foot foot lane in both directions, with a center turn lane and a shoulder, on the portion of East Washington running from Cole Street to the Interstate 74 overpass. Currently, that stretch of road has two 10-foot lanes in both directions, with no shoulder.

Midwest Engineering's Robert Culp said the goal is to make the roadway safer for pedestrians and motorists.

"By creating that buffer space, the business owners felt like people be more inclined to walk along the sidewalk without cars right next to the curb. There would be less accidents or crashes to happen because we would have, I guess, one wide lane rather than two narrow lanes," he said.

He said adding a shoulder also move vehicles further away from roadside utility poles, which are occasionally clipped by passing traffic. Culp said the street also has a higher-than-average number of vehicle crashes, based on 2017 data. Sideswiping due to the narrow lanes is common.

The new plan is downscaled significantly from what was originally talked about in 2017 for the portion of East Washington. That plan had eyed features like street parking and mid-block crossings. The revisions also leave changes to the 100 block of East Washington off the table — it would remain five lanes near the Four Corners before narrowing at Cole Street.

East Peoria's public safety officials raised concerns about the ability of emergency vehicles to maneuver through the new configuration, particularly when the road is congested during the annual Festival of Lights Winter Wonderland up Springfield Road. It draws thousands of visitors every holiday season.

"I absolutely agree that it's a traffic nightmare. But when we go down to one lane in each direction in the turn lane, I have a concern for fire trucks getting through there," said fire chief Bobby Zimmerman. "When someone is coming east and west, and then you've got two cars in the turn lane, you're either going to force them into oncoming traffic, or we as first responders will have to go in oncoming traffic."

Police chief Rich Brodrick agreed.

"From the same public safety standpoint, that's my biggest concern. We're placing not only our first responders, but our motoring public, in more jeopardy, creating more liability based on the driving that we have to do at times during the Festival of Lights," he said.

Don Bell owns a business along the impacted stretch of East Washington. He said traffic needs to be slowed down in the area. He's clocked vehicles going 50 mph in the 30 mph zone with a radar gun, he said.

"You cannot have a business district, you know, with people going that fast through that area. I mean, the bottom line, it is a business district. It is not a thoroughfare. It is not a road that everybody just cuts through," he said.

The East Peoria City Council made no decisions during a working session on Tuesday. Culp said getting the project done sometime this calendar year would be the "optimum goal."

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with donors across the NPR Network – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.