New upgrades along I-74 near Murray Baker Bridge control traffic, congestion, make the area safer

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — When the Murray Baker Bridge re-opens across the Illinois River, there will literally be stop and go traffic to get on the bridge from downtown Peoria.

While the bridge has been closed for the last seven months, Illinois Department of Transportation engineers have been working to add safety upgrades.

“I’ve had to take the interstate into work every day and so the construction that way is going to be a lot better,” said Peoria driver Jonathan Smith.

People will soon see new signs and lights to control traffic. IDOT Engineers say before, there were some spots where traffic can get congested and be dangerous.

“It seemed like a good time to get people used to them when traffic opens back up again,” said design and planning engineer Ben Tellefson.

One of the upgrades is ramp metering. It’s on the eastbound I-74 ramp near Jefferson and Fayette in Peoria.

“Adding these will help to create gaps in the ramp traffic and merge more safely into I-74, maintaining that traffic flow on I-74,” said Tellefson

He says the lights will help make the area safer too.

“We’ve had issues here historically with crashes and rear-end crashes on I-74. There’s a tight merge area and a narrow bridge where traffic slows down,” said Tellefson.

He says it’ll take time for drivers to adjust.

“We’d like drivers just to take their time, be slow, be considerate of other drivers as other drivers are trying to figure it out as well,” said Tellefson.

For some Peoria drivers, the change is concerning.

“I’m anxious to see how everybody else adopts the system,” said Smith.

Still, he says it could be a welcome change to a busy area.

“I’m really excited about that. I think that helps promote the zipper merge that people always talk about that nobody utilizes,” said Smith.

The metered lights on the Jefferson ramp will only run during afternoon rush hour from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Tellefson says other safety upgrades include message boards in Peoria and East Peoria. He also says there are new wrong way signs and flashing lights for drivers at the Adams Street off ramp on westbound I-74.

The bridge is scheduled to reopen at the end of the month.

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