Residents Fear Wilmington-Peotone Widening Will Mean More Trucks

Wilmington resident Roy Surdej who lives near the proposed widening is concerned it will cause even more truck traffic through what is a residential area. (Photos by Stephanie Irvine)
Wilmington resident Roy Surdej who lives near the proposed widening is concerned it will cause even more truck traffic through what is a residential area. (Photos by Stephanie Irvine)

Wilmington resident Roy Surdej who lives near the proposed widening is concerned it will cause even more truck traffic through what is a residential area. (Photos by Stephanie Irvine)

 

By Stephanie Irvine

The first of two public meetings on potential changes to Wilmington-Peotone Road was held at the Wilmington City Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

A steady flow of local residents attended the informational open house to learn more about the future of the roadway and to provide comment.

The 22-mile stretch of roadway between I-55 and Drecksler Road is currently the subject of a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study, which began mid-year 2023. Phase one of the study is anticipated to conclude in late 2024, which includes two open houses, stakeholder meetings and data collection.

The Wilmington open house was well-attended, with area residents closely reviewing the study area, maps, and data points that were displayed on large posters. Multiple representatives from Kimley-Horn, the engineering firm conducting the study for the county, also attended to answer questions about the study.

Safety and an increase in traffic, particularly truck traffic, were big concerns among residents that attended, as well as the county. Wilmington-Peotone Road is well-traveled by locals and currently serves as a rural east-west route for trucks and passenger vehicles.

The volume of traffic has tested the limits of the 55-mph two-lane highway, which has been the scene of many serious, often deadly, accidents in recent years.

Crash data was prominently displayed, showing that between 2018 and 2022, 535 accidents occurred on this stretch of road, with an increasing percentage of accidents with injuries year over year.

“We know at the county level that this highway, like many of our rural routes, has narrow pavement, little or no shoulder, drainage issues, sight distance issues, and then to top it all off, there’s been a significant increase in truck traffic and traffic volumes,” said Christine Kupkowski, Will County DOT Phase I Project Manager and Transportation Planner.

“Given the host of issues that we have out there, we knew we were going to need to look at what we can do to improve and alleviate some of those concerns.”

Attendees could verbally offer comments to Project Manager Kupkowski, fill out comment sheets, or submit comments online. An enlarged map of the roadway was littered with post-it notes indicating problematic areas identified by attendees.

Linda Anderson, who lives directly on Peotone Road, shared, “It’s a very dangerous road. There have been numerous accidents in our yard, so I know how bad it is.”

She also shared concerns about an increase in truck traffic.

“I don’t know if a four-lane highway is the answer for it, I really don’t know. To me that’s just going to bring more trucks.”

Roy Surdej, who lives in the front of a subdivision that abuts Wilmington-Peotone Road, also expressed concerns.

“There’s way too much truck traffic. So when they decide they might want to do four lanes, it concerns me.”

Pointing to an area on the map that showed his subdivision, he continued, “This is a residential community. Even though it’s not an interstate, it’s four lanes, and it’s going to draw more truck traffic.”

He suggested that they divert traffic coming from the industrial area to Arsenal Road, but was concerned that his thoughts would fall on deaf ears.

Resident Bill Rossi was also leery of the County’s intentions and shared his frustrations with the lack of tax-payer benefit.

“They’re going to end up taking property to do the work that they need to do. And what benefit do we get out of it? More traffic. Who’s paying for it? All the taxpayers, again. Once again, we’re not getting anything out of it. We’re going to end up paying for it, and the trucking companies are going to make money.”

As for the study, it was funded in part by a state planning grant, Kupkowski said.

“We did get some grant dollars to do this initial study. We will continue to process this so we can apply for additional funding as we move forward.”

Though residents were given the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns, some attendees were disappointed that the county didn’t have more answers.

“I thought there’d be more — that they’d be able to answer questions better than they have,” Anderson said. “I really did. That’s what I was hoping for anyway. I’m worried about my house. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Resident Bill Rossi echoed the sentiment regarding a lack of information.

“They’re not really giving answers out. They’re saying it’s all speculation at this point. They’re saying at the next meeting they’ll have more options for everyone to look at and draw from those options.”

The goal of the study and project, Kupkowski said, “Whether you live on the road or you use the road, we want a safe product for everybody. We want to be good stewards of the tax dollars that are provided to us by the residents of the county.”

The Will County DOT aims to help stakeholders including the City of Wilmington, Village of Peotone, Village of Symerton, study area townships, Illinois Trucking Association, Midewin, and the Will County CED, and the public better understand existing and future travel demands.

The county noted in their event press release that they are hoping to develop the corridor in a way that can both handle the travel demands in a safe manner while supporting economic vitality of the county.

A second informational meeting offering residents another chance to learn more about the study and provide public comment will be held December 13 from 4 – 7 p.m. at Peotone High School. Residents who are unable to attend or make public comments personally will be afforded the opportunity to do so online by visiting www.wilmingtonpeotonestudy.com by Jan. 12, 2024.

Stephanie Irvine is a freelance reporter.

 

 

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