At Issue: Most of Pekin’s most dangerous intersections, in terms of crash counts, lie along Court Street as its traffic count and speed limits rise heading from the downtown area.
Local Impact: The city’s engineer said steps have been taken to reduce danger on one rural-area intersection that had an unusually high crash count last year.
Motorists unfamiliar with the old streets and traffic flow of downtown Pekin find themselves in a confusing, treacherous maze.
Drivers can be tricked by the traffic lights on Third Street between Margaret and Ann Eliza streets, a danger to the drivers leaving the McNaughton Bridge. Semi-truck drivers strain to turn their rigs from Margaret onto Fifth Street, as drivers stopped for the red light at that narrow intersection cross their fingers.
The city’s greatest collision dangers, however, don’t lurk downtown. They’re out where the traffic flows thicker and faster.
Specifically, beware of Court Street.
Marked along that main traffic artery and its diagonal path are three intersections where the most traffic crashes have taken place in the city over the past four years.
There’s no mystery to that fact, said Pekin Police Department Public Information Officer Billie Ingles.
“That’s where the most traffic is. It’s that basic,” she said.
In order of most crashes between 2013 and 2016, the intersections are Court and Parkway Drive with 66, a tie of 54 between Court and Valle Vista Boulevard and Parkway and Broadway Street, and Court and Veterans Drive with 44, according to police department statistics.
The four crossings are among the most visually unobstructed and organized in the city, with traffic lights timed to control vehicle flow and right-turn lanes controlled by on-green-only arrows.
Motorists, however, press the gas pedal a bit deeper as they head east on Court through three of the four top-collision intersections, and perhaps slow down reluctantly heading west. Between downtown and Veterans, the street’s speed limit rises and falls 10 mph, respectively, in those directions.
Along with traffic counts, “Speed does play a role” in the intersections’ crash numbers, Ingles said.
About 20,600 vehicles pass daily through the Court/Valle Vista intersection, a major conduit for residents of the Sunset Hills subdivision. That makes it the city’s busiest intersection, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Parkway and Broadway sees nearly 17,000 vehicles a day, about 1,000 more than Parkway and Court. Despite its high four-year collision count, only about 6,350 vehicles pass daily through Court and Veterans, but that crossing’s 45-mph speed limit is among the city’s highest.
Crash statistics from last year showed a few breaks from the four-year trends. Collisions were high at several intersections that didn’t reach the police department’s top-five lists in the previous three years.
Significantly, they included VFW Road and 14th Street on the city’s southeastern edge. Traffic there was limited by construction through much of 2016, yet the intersection recorded 11 crashes. City Engineer Mike Guerra thinks he knows why.
Before the VFW Road reconstruction project, it was a four-way stop intersection, he said. The VFW stop signs were removed when the road reopened in October, but some regular drivers on 14th Street apparently assumed cross traffic would still be stopping, Guerra said.
By last February, the city installed flashing stop signs on both sides of 14th, along with several street lights to brighten the rural intersection. No serious injury accidents have been reported at the crossing since construction there ended.
Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin