HARRISBURG -- Commuters traveling east Thursday morning may have caught sight of a new piece of equipment designed to help make an intersection along Harrisburg's Illinois 13 bypass safer.
Mayor John McPeek, along with Commissioner Mike Weirauch, police Chief David Morris, fire Chief John Gunning and city insurance adviser Bill Ghent gathered along the side of the eastbound lane of Illinois 13 between the Lovers Lane and Poplar Street intersections along with several city workers to observe the city's new equipment designed to improve street and highway safety.
The portable changeable message sign contains a radar device and will be used by the city to monitor speed and relay a vehicle's speed back to that driver on its message board. The city obtained the $14,000 machine thanks to a grant obtained by Ghent.
McPeek said using the machine is one of several steps the city, along with the Saline County Sheriff's Office, is taking to reduce accidents at the intersection of Illinois 13 and Poplar Street. So far, requests to the Illinois Department of Transportation for a stoplight at the intersection have not yielded results, McPeek said.
"This intersection has had a lot of accidents, and we're trying to prove to IDOT that we need a stoplight here," he said. "That's where this machine comes into play."
He asked Ghent for an explanation of how the PCMS will help.
"This machine is capable of doing many different things," Ghent said. "It will track the amount of traffic passing by the intersection and their speeds and send a report which then can be sent to the state."
Because it's portable, it can be moved to other locations if needed, Ghent said. Also, the message board may be programmed by cell phone. He said the grant that paid for the equipment this year was about $33,000, and the city likely would purchase another PCMS to monitor vehicle speeds traveling westbound.
Saline County Sheriff Keith Brown said three fatal accidents have occurred at the intersection since it opened, and many nonfatal wrecks continue to happen there as well. He said he has continually notified Harrisburg's legislative representatives since the intersection opened of accidents in the hope that they can help convince IDOT to install a stoplight.
"They are well aware of our situation," Brown said. "Any time we're out here for an accident, we let them know so that they can give that information to IDOT."