IDOT and city discuss Caron Road and Illinois Route 38 intersection following accidents
‘I don't think that it's an inherently dangerous intersection. It's just a very busy intersection’
ROCHELLE — A number of accidents have occurred at the intersection of Illinois Route 38 and Caron Road in recent months, including an Oct. 2 vehicle vs. bicycle accident that resulted in the death of a 21-year-old Rochelle man that is still under investigation, Rochelle Police Chief Pete Pavia said Oct. 18.
City of Rochelle Engineer Sam Tesreau said Oct. 18 that there has been recent communication between his office and the Illinois Department of Transportation, which maintains Illinois Route 38, about what improvements could be made at the Rochelle intersection.
Illinois Route 38 is the primary leg of the intersection, which would put the onus of any improvements on IDOT. Tesreau said the recent fatality was the only one at the intersection he’s aware of in the past five years and IDOT has reviewed crash data on the intersection to determine if any changes need to be made. Tesreau doesn’t believe that major changes to the intersection are in the cards.
“There's not going to be geometric changes out there to the roadway,” Tesreau said. “And primarily IDOT has control over that. Any improvement that would be done would have to go through them for approval. We're kind of batting those things around right now, but in terms of big expensive changes and things like that, I don't see that happening. Because the current signals that are out there today are applicable for the traffic, and there's roughly 17,000 vehicles a day on Illinois Route 38 and the signage that's currently out there today meets all the MUTCD standards. There are designated crosswalks for pedestrians. There are pedestrian push button systems in place to allow them adequate time to cross that highway. I don't see any changes happening there. But there's more to come as we have conversations with IDOT. We're also looking at funding mechanisms should we come to some conclusion about maybe some different types of measures that might improve the system.”
Tesreau said one potential improvement at the intersection could be a yellow flashing arrow system, which still requires yielding to oncoming traffic. Adding designated left-hand turn green arrows to the parts of the intersection currently without them would require geometric changes, which likely could not happen due to space constraints in the intersection.
Distracted driving could be more of a cause of accidents than the intersection itself, Tesreau said.
“There is a sign up on each direction north and south that says yield to oncoming traffic on green,” Tesreau said. “And that's a regulatory signage that everyone should be obeying. However there's a lot of distracted driving going on and I think that's primarily what we're seeing here. Yeah, it's a busy intersection as our first responders have indicated, but when you introduce that distracted driving into it. There's reports on IDOT's website and the Federal Highway Administration's website with statistics about that, and that's what we're seeing here today.”
Rochelle Fire Department Chief Dave Sawlsville said Illinois Route 38 and Caron Road is one of the intersections RFD responds to most, due to how busy it is and the mixed-use it has with residential, retail, commercial truck, foot and bicycle traffic.
“It's very congested,” Sawlsville said. “So when you pack that many people into one intersection, things are going to happen. I don't think that it's an inherently dangerous intersection. It's just a very busy intersection with multi-use. I would say people need to use extra caution when they're going through there. But as far as the physical layout and everything, I don't think it's an inherently dangerous intersection. I think if you move that traffic anywhere else in town, you'd have the same issues."
Pavia said that accidents can make the intersection seem dangerous, but periodic incidents with 17,000 cars a day on Illinois Route 38 makes for “a very small percentage” of events.
Sawlsville agreed with Tesreau that more distracted driving in recent years could be a cause of more accidents at the intersection, not just more cars and development in the area.
“You can't take out the distracted driving element,” Sawlsville said. “I think as we're looking for trends, I don't think Walmart coming into the area would be the trend. I think the trend is people aren't paying attention as much. You have a high-traffic intersection where you need to pay extra attention, and people are paying less attention. You can't take that factor out of the equation.”
When Walmart built its current store in the area, improvements were made to the intersection including upgrades to the signals and pedestrian crosswalks, including push-button pedestrian systems.
“I think the walkability there works,” Tesreau said. “Are there certain things that we'd like to improve on with pedestrian access at some point in the future? Yes. But we do have sidewalks on both sides of Illinois Route 38 into that intersection. There's a sidewalk on the south side headed to the east and there's a shared-use path as well that heads to the east out of that intersection. So there's plenty of pedestrian access routes that they can use. Those are typical at any intersection.”