As part of Columbia Police Chief Jerry Paul’s quest to increase traffic safety along the Route 3 corridor, he announced several steps he intends to take toward that end during a Columbia City Council committee meeting Monday night.
Paul is asking the city council to add funds to the fiscal year 2018-19 budget to allow the department to hire a 17th police officer for the city, which will be a dedicated traffic officer for Route 3 enforcement. The Committee of the Whole heard Paul’s request Monday night and the full city council will vote on the budget during its April 15 meeting.
“I think we can change the behavior and that’s what I’d like to do with the 17th officer,” Paul told council members.
“I envision at some point in the future we would be able to pull that officer off and maybe onto Gall Road, Columbia Lakes Drive, out in the different wards where we have problems,” Paul added.
Taking into consideration comments on the “Citizens Demanding Change on Illinois Route 3, Columbia, Illinois” group Facebook page and concerns identified by city and police officials, Paul also has a list of seven action items he will submit to the Illinois Department of Transportation for improved Route 3 safety.
“On the Route 3 corridor we’d like to have the concrete turnarounds like they have on 255 with a solid base and solid footing to sit and watch for violations and also when (officers) see a violation going the other direction they have a solid surface to turn around and go toward the violator,” Paul explained.
Along with the turnarounds, he is requesting the installation of bump-outs.
“If you’re on Route 3 during rush hour in the morning and evening the traffic is very heavy,” Paul said. “If an officer were to see somebody, for example, violate a traffic light, and they stop that violator, while they’re on the side of the road, now traffic is all yielding into the far left turning lane. A lot of times this practice is more dangerous and where more accidents will occur than the (violation). So sometimes officers will resist (pulling over violations) a little bit at those busy times.”
Concrete bump-outs would provide a place officers can direct vehicles to pull over that are set back from the roadway and shoulder.
“The (vehicles) are pulled out from the regular traffic and the two lanes can continue flowing,” Paul said. “The officer’s a lot safer. The violator’s a lot safer, and we don’t have those residual accidents from rubber necking — rear-end collisions and that sort of thing.”
Paul is also asking for a signal coordinating and timing study, which involves an unbiased third party to conduct an analysis of the timing, length and synchronization of Route 3 traffic signals.
“They look at also and give us best practices on how we’re doing in the school zones, the rush hour traffic zones, things like that,” Paul said.
Another step Paul will ask IDOT to consider is staggering the stop lines at the city cross streets along Route 3.
“When you pull up (on the side street), the car going straight and the car turning are even. Let’s stagger it and bring the turning car back with the white stop line so the first vehicle has a good clear view, so if there is somebody who violates the light, they’re not pulling out because their vision’s obstructed by another vehicle.”
The fourth item on the wish list is to make double turn lanes for cars on Veterans Parkway near McDonald’s.
“We’re looking at and thinking if we made the lane going straight across to the high school a straight but also a turn lane into the far right lane on Route 3, so you could essentially have two turn lanes turning right onto Route 3, that would alleviate the congestion.”
He is also requesting additional indicators including flashing lights, countdown timers or rumble strips to draw drivers’ attention to the upcoming traffic signal, and speed limit signs with orange borders to make them more visible.
Finally, Paul will request IDOT discuss making all the intersections along the Columbia corridor be “protected green” — left turns can only be made with a green left turn arrow. Bottom Avenue is the only protected green intersection on Route 3 in Columbia at present.
“This is something that would be a little more long-term and probably the most expensive thing we’re requesting here,” Paul said.
Ward II Alderman Kevin Martens and Ward I Alderman Steve Reis proposed Paul include in his requests moving the signs that indicate the Route 3 speed limit has decreased from 55 MPH to 45 MPH for vehicles entering Columbia from the south. The men agreed the current location of the signs is too close to the South Main intersection to give drivers time to slow down before approaching the intersection.