WILLIAMSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Improvements are coming to Interstate 57 in Williamson County, Illinois.
U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced on Wednesday, March 7 that the Illinois Department of Transportation has been awarded $7,600,000 in federal funding for infrastructure improvements.
Josh Gatz, a truck driver for JMSA trucking company based in Illinois, is one the many 40,000 people driving daily on this stretch of Interstate 57. He says, the improvements are beneficial. "It will make my job a lot easier and a lot safer."
Concerned for the safety of people like Gatz, The U.S. Dept of Transportation took action. They awarded the investment through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program the funds for expansion.
"If they can smooth out the roads and make them a little bit wider it would go a long way," says Gatz. "The money is very much needed desperately."
The improvements will stretch for five miles in Williamson County between Johnston City and Pond Creek.
The goals are to help ease the flow of traffic in the commonly congested areas, adding a new lane in each direction.
In addition, the grant will also install a median barrier, resurface the existing lanes, update pavement markings and deficient guardrails, and install raised reflectors and rumble strips.
"You go to all the states and there are wider freeways when there are accidents, there's an extra lane to get by versus when you come to Illinois, it's two lanes. [When there is] a bad accident, you're shut down and you're sitting there for hours," Gatz says.
Illinois State Police see benefits to the expansion as well.
"With an addition of another lane, it will get us a little more space to the left, right, forward and back of these vehicles and give us hopefully a little more reaction time with that, so that will make a large difference like say the congestion and alleviating that congestion as people travel through the area," Trooper Joshua Haile said.
Trooper Haile says there will be growing pains with the construction, and one driver, Ed Clark, says it's going to get worse before it's gets better.
"When we come through Nashville that's a lot of construction and you get upset with it but you know it's for the betterment of them all," he said. "And when it's finished it's really nice. But while it's going on, it's a little bit of a hassle. But we can put up with it."
According to Representative Terri Bryant, the federal monies won't be enough to fulfill the complete need, but she says it's a great start.
The total cost of construction is $12.7 million. IDOT says the state will match the rest.
"This grant is truly a win-win," said Rep. Mike Bost. "It not only will improve safety along a dangerous stretch of highway between Marion and Mt. Vernon, but also has the potential to lead to economic development around Benton and other points in between."
"These improvements will have a huge impact on the safety, reliability, and efficiency on a key segment of I-57," said Gov. Bruce Rauner. "Working with our federal and local partners, we are making travel safer and creating economic development in southern Illinois."
Approximately 39,300 vehicles travel through Williamson and Franklin counties each day. That number climbs to more than 65,000 in the summer. according to Bost's office.