Work aimed at increasing safety starts today on U.S. 20 in East Dubuque

EAST DUBUQUE, Ill. — A road project that will impact a busy stretch of highway in East Dubuque will start today.

The project will turn a portion of U.S. 20 from four lanes to three, including a bi-directional turning lane, in an effort to improve safety on that stretch of roadway. The change will be made between Sixth Street, near Van’s Liquor Store, to Camillus Drive, by Family Beer & Liquor.

Other work in the $1.2 million project includes roadway patching and an asphalt overlay.

Lane closures are planned, but no detours will be in place, and all lanes will be open during Easter weekend, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Construction initially was scheduled to begin on May 1, and then the start date was moved to Monday, April 18. However, due to the weather, construction was moved up yet again.

“(The DOT) told us early on May 1, but they would start sooner if weather allowed,” said East Dubuque City Manager Loras Herrig.

The DOT now expects that the project will be complete by mid-June.

Paul Wappel, Illinois DOT public information officer, said contractor Civil Constructors, of Freeport, Ill., submitted a request to start the project a bit earlier than planned.

Officials noted that drivers should anticipate flaggers in the area during construction. Herrig said crews will work on the road in phases, so flaggers may be in different areas throughout the project.

“People should expect traffic delays for sure,” he said. “It’s a pretty busy area.”

Wappel also noted that lane closures will take place both during the day and at night during construction, but there will be at least one lane open in each direction at all times.

That stretch of U.S. 20 currently has two lanes traveling in each direction without dedicated left-turn lanes.

After work is complete, the roadway will consist of three lanes: an eastbound lane, a westbound lane and a bi-directional turning lane in between. The raised median currently on the roadway will be removed.

Herrig said the project primarily is funded by the DOT.

“(The City of East Dubuque) is contributing a small amount in the tens of thousands as far as our infrastructure, but that will be determined as they go,” he said.

He added that the project primarily is aimed at addressing safety issues on that stretch of U.S. 20. The road has been the site of a “huge number of accidents,” he said, a majority of which the continuous turning lane should address.

“There have been a lot of accidents when people would be turning,” Herrig said. “We had two lanes of traffic going at a higher rate of speed, and there have been a lot of rear-end accidents when people didn’t see a turn signal.”

Illinois DOT data shows that there were 15 rear-end collisions in that stretch of U.S. 20 from 2016 to 2020.

Herrig said he would ask motorists to practice patience as construction commences.

“Maybe leave a little earlier,” he said. “It will be well worth the aggravation during the two months of construction for better safety in the future.”

The area slated for improvement does not include the intersections of U.S. 20 with Barge Terminal or Frentress Lake roads — two other areas that have been the site of multiple serious crashes.

One was a crash in May 2016 involving a car and a semi-tractor trailer, in which an East Dubuque High School student sustained fatal injuries. The DOT lowered the speed limit from 65 to 55 mph from Barge Terminal Road to Camillus Drive later that month following lobbying efforts from municipal and school officials.

DOT officials in February said the state plans to complete improvements at both intersections in the coming years. Work at the Frentress Lake Road intersection will include the addition of an eastbound left turn lane, while the Barge Terminal Road intersection would see additional turn lanes, acceleration and deceleration lanes and the limiting of some through accesses.