Temperate climates, like in central Illinois, can often mean cycles of freezing and thawing and then more freezing that can be rough on Pekin and state roads.
The cycle means municipal street crews throughout the area are kept busy throughout the cold weather filling potholes that have formed by moisture seeping into cracks in roads, then freezing and expanding.
Winter deterioration of state routes also keeps road repair crews from the Illinois Department of Transportation occupied. In addition to the wear and tear that comes with plowing, salting, and freezing temperatures alternating with temporary thaws, road crews working on state routes contend with heavy truck traffic and the damage it can create.
“CMVs (Commercial Motor Vehicles) can create a variety of damage to roadways, including but not limited to, potholes on roadways, which in turn can cause damage to other traveling motorists,” said Trooper Mindy Carroll, Illinois State Police central public information officer. “While this damage can be caused by any vehicle, the damage likely goes up more than proportionally with size and weight.”
Downtown Pekin sees its fair share of commercial vehicle traffic, largely because two major state highways intersect there. Illinois-29, which runs north to south and connects Peoria with Springfield, joins the east-to-west Illinois-9, which provides access to Interstate-74 and Interestate-55, at 3rd Street and Margaret Street.
“The Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) for Heavy Commercial Vehicles, which includes single-unit and multiple-unit trucks, ranges from 460 per day to 1,425 per day on IL-29 from IL-98 to downtown Pekin,” said Jessie Decker, bureau chief of communication services for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). “From downtown Pekin to Manito Road, the HCV (traffic) ranges from 400 to 1,650 (vehicles) per day.”
The truck traffic coming through downtown Pekin each day ranges from 475 to 1,150 vehicles daily, according to IDOT statistics.
“Pekin is more of an origin and destination for trucks than just a pass through location due to the river crossing with Illinois 9, rail access, river access, grain terminals and other industrial companies along Illinois 29 and the Illinois River,” said Decker.
There is no limit to the number of trucks on state routes like IL-29 and IL-9, according to Decker. The current weight limit for commercial vehicles traveling on Illinois roads is 80,000 pounds. The maximum dimensions for trucks traveling on state highways are 8 feet, 6 inches high, 13 feet, 6 inches wide and 60 feet long.
“The weight, length and height of trucks are regulated with vehicles over the legal limits requiring a permit from IDOT,” she said.
The Illinois State Police monitor truck traffic at weight stations across the state. Chapter 15 of the Illinois Vehicle Code stipulates fines for owners or drivers of vehicles in excess of the weight limit ranging from $100 to over $1,500.
“The penalty varies according to the weight,” said Carroll.
According to a Feb. 11 press release from the nonprofit organization Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, some large trucking companies including Amazon, FedEx and UPS have begun lobbying Congress to require every state to allow longer double-trailer trucks on the country’s highways. Large shippers like Anheuser-Busch and Kraft Foods have also proposed a national increase in maximum truck weights from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds.
“If legal weight limits were increased on all highways governed by the State of Illinois, roads would likely deteriorate faster and more severely,” said Decker. “Allowing permitted weight limit increases would likely cause additional deterioration, but that could be offset by the fee charged for each permit that would go toward road repairs.”
An opponent of larger trucks, Bartonville Police Chief Brian Fengel, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with Illinois legislators.
“There was a group of sheriffs and (police) chiefs who went and lobbied Congress and expressed our concerns about bigger trucks,” said Fengel. “This is ongoing. Our group focused on certain individuals in Congress. Then, another group will go out in March. Another one will go out in April.”
One of Fengel’s concerns about larger trucks is the stress they will place on Illinois roads and bridges he believes are already in need of repair. He said he also believes that an increase in truck sizes would be detrimental to highway safety.
“The (IACP) has historically opposed bigger trucks for the simple safety of the motoring public,” he said. “If you get on the roadway now and try to pass a semi, it’s at times very difficult. If you get longer trucks, it’s going to be even more dangerous.”
Fengel’s perspective on commercial vehicles comes from firsthand experience. Before becoming a law enforcement professional, he transported heavy equipment.
“I have a lot of truckers calling and texting me, telling me they don’t want bigger, longer, heavier trucks,” he said. “These are people who drive them every day.”