Study looks at creating east-west roadway in southern Illinois

You want your road trip to be as fast and easy as possible, so you can save time and money. But right now, getting around Southern Illinois isn’t so easy, especially for travelers heading east to west.

Trips that should take 20 minutes detour drivers miles out of the way without main roads in place to cut the distance down. The Illinois Department of Transportation is looking to cut down on heavy traffic along those routes while creating a new, faster road.

Thousands of cars and trucks roll across Route 146 every day, right through downtown Anna and Jonesboro. Darren Bailey, a Jonesboro native, says just stopping in for lunch at Jordo’s Pizzeria in Anna can be dangerous.

"People can’t make a left turn to get through to major places of business or to get from one part of town to another. So yeah, I think there’s a significant traffic problem here,” said Bailey.

If you want to walk to get a coffee or even a slice of pizza, heavy traffic may keep you from crossing the street. It’s one of the reasons the Illinois Department of Transportation is conducting the Shawnee Parkway Study over the next three years: to look at adding a new east to west road through southern Illinois.

Program Development Engineer Carrie Nelsen says there are a lot of factors to consider with building besides the traffic.

"This is a very sensitive environmental area. And we’re hearing a lot of comments from people, especially outside of the study area, to preserve the Shawnee National Park, to preserve the Cache River watershed, to preserve migratory bird habitat," said Nelsen.

She says public input will be key in their decision whether to build a road and where it will end up running through.

"Are we going to be victims and have traffic taken away from us? Or are we going to be winners and really take advantage of it and boost our economy," Bailey asked.

While people are split on if a new road will help or hurt the area, many like Bailey say it’s all how you handle the change.

IDOT expects to begin presentations on potential roadway routes through public meetings in the summer. For more information on how you can weigh in or find out more information on the study, click here.

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