A safe and modern transportation system is important to the people of Danville and Vermilion County, so it’s always good news when a vital travel artery through the area such as Interstate 74 gets a major upgrade to its infrastructure.

A big project began last month on I-74 just east of the MLK Drive/U.S. 150 interchange. The bridges that carry the freeway over the Salt Fork Vermilion River are being replaced, a super-sized undertaking that will disrupt the flow of traffic in both directions for quite some time. This year’s portion of the project will be completed by the end of the construction season in late November.

Meanwhile, safety should be foremost in the minds of every motorist who ventures onto the interstate when construction is underway. The Illinois Department of Transportation says there will always be one lane open in each direction while work is done, but one must assume the traffic flow will be slowed significantly, or even stopped, at critical times.

Transportation officials emphasize that motorists should expect delays. It would be wise to allow extra time for trips through the area. Even better, avoid the area altogether if that’s feasible, and take other routes to your destination.

Keep in mind also that conditions are likely to change periodically. Signs and directions for driving through the area won’t always be the same. Work zones are fluid operations, so pay attention to changing dynamics.

It’s an important function of transportation and construction management for state officials to give keen attention to safety in highway work zones. Likewise, we urge Illinois State Police to keep devoting extra patrols in work areas. The presence of patrol officers can make a big difference in maintaining a safe environment for motorists and workers.

The state has already recorded serious interstate crashes in or near work zones this fall, most recently on Interstate 80 where a construction worker was struck and killed by a motorist. All too often, such crashes are the result of motorists not paying attention or being distracted as they approach traffic slowed or stopped by construction work. Rear-end collisions can create chain reactions with other vehicles. When a rear-end crash involves large trucks, the result can be especially devastating.

The best protection for a motorist is to pay attention. Anticipate traffic congestion near work zones. Obey posted speed limits. Follow directions. And keep your eyes on the road and your hands OFF your mobile device.

Be alert. Stay safe.

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