The Village of South Jacksonville and area grain haulers have been dealing with traffic congestion at the southern edge of town for several months.
The Bartlett Grain complex has been overrun with grain haulers for the past several months. Village Police Chief Eric Hansell says that the traffic congestion begins in a really busy part of the day: “Typically the traffic issue would start for us about 11:30AM and run until about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, which is when everybody is trying to come to town to go eat lunch and run errands. Traffic has previously been backed up as far as the eastbound on-ramp for I-72 from Comfort Drive south. We had trucks that were lined up on the off-ramp for I-72 westbound and on Loves Drive, Comfort Drive, Magnolia, and Holiday. For South Jacksonville, it’s kind of a gridlock at a point. It’s happened several times, at least 5 times where we’ve had to go out and help direct traffic and move trucks around, shuffle them around off the highway, just so our traffic could get through.”
Hansell says it consumes his mid-day staffing level to direct the extensive traffic and delays response times to emergency calls. He says it’s also a major public safety issue with traffic and parking along the village’s side streets, making for a potential likelihood of more crashes. Police officers have had to deal with driver arguments over getting into and out of line after being directed off the highway. Hansell says it has long-term effects on the side streets as well: “You have trucks that are about 62 feet long hauling possibly up to 80,000 pounds. Streets like South Main and your state routes or designated truck routes are thick enough to maintain that type of weight. When you have village streets that typically aren’t rated for or didn’t anticipate that type of weight in traffic for that length of time, it takes a toll on them, especially when it is coming into Spring when you have the freezing and thawing and the flexing of the ground.”
Hansell says the parking along the village’s side streets on both sides makes them nearly impassable for other vehicles, setting up the potential of emergency vehicles unable to get through those streets to respond to a call.
Hansell says he has had discussion’s with Bartlett’s management about the congestion issue getting into their facility. He says higher grain prices, a drought out West, and the rivers’ levels being low making it difficult to impossible to transport grain north to south in the country is causing the large influx of truck traffic. Hansell says there is a potential for the traffic situation to persist.
Hansell brought the ongoing issue to the South Jacksonville plans commission on Thursday night asking them to consider asking Bartlett to build in extra lanes or parking into any expansion of their facility in the future.
Hansell says the current entrance into the facility is simply too short: “I don’t know how they could route it onto their grounds to make it work, but I would like them to have more than about 650 feet of stocking or space for semis to wait before they wait to unload.”
For now, citizens are asked to use caution in driving through the area during high congestion times and to avoid driving through there at that time if at all possible. Grain haulers in the region are asked to remain patient, don’t park in unauthorized parking areas waiting to get into Barlett’s, and follow all police commands while they are directing traffic.