I-DOT presents eight options for Bloomington’s ‘deadly’ Veterans/Empire intersection

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — People in the Twin Cities are being asked for their input on how to re-do one of Bloomington’s busiest and highly traveled roadways.

Thursday, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) presented eight possible plans for travelers along Veterans Parkway and Empire Street (Illinois Route 9) as they look to reconfigure the site of Bloomington-Normal’s deadliest intersection.

The plans are part of IDOT’s Intersection Improvement Feasibility study that assesses the safety of intersections across the state. For 2019, the Veterans/Empire intersection was named Bloomington’s deadliest intersection by IDOT with 18 casualties.

Paul Wappel, a public information officer with IDOT, said during the meeting and the planning process, engineers have studied many metrics.

“Pedestrian access, right-of-way, traffic flow; all of those things go into it, safety again being number one,” Wappel said.

According to the study, from 2013-2017, 160 crashes occurred at the intersection with half of them being rear-ended crashes. Wappel said the two roads account for nearly 90,000 vehicles of traffic every day.

“Veterans Parkway has like 45,000 vehicles a day and then the east and west branches of Empire Street account for about 40,000 vehicles,” Wappel said.

IDOT presented the eight different options during a virtual public information meeting Thursday night.

One plan is to leave the intersection as is which is “fine as it is”. Four of the plans include some sort of bridge or overpass being built. Others include a roundabout feature to keep constant traffic flowing.

Wappel said over the years, minor improvements have been made to the area, but nothing of this magnitude.

“We’ve placed pavement markings, restriped cross-walks and replaced guardrails,” Wappel said.

While the budgeting and finances are being handled by the state, IDOT is working closely with the City of Bloomington and public works.

Kevin Kothe, the director of Bloomington’s public works department, said the current design is unsafe and not friendly to those who walk or bike.

“We do have some pedestrians out there so as a city we’ve advocated with I-DOT to consider the pedestrians,” Kothe said. “We want it to be as safe as it can be, not only for the cars, but also pedestrians and bikes/other users that might be crossing it as well.”

Kothe said current plans he’s seen account for improved ease-of-access for pedestrians, but both IDOT and the city are asking the public for their input.

“We want to hear from you, we want to hear what your thoughts are,” Wappel said.

“I encourage our citizens that have an interest to go out there and look at it,” Kothe said.

Early estimates of the cost range anywhere from $11 million to $55 million. Planners also stress this is a long-term project and has not yet been included in IDOT’s budgets.

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