JOLIET – The village of Elwood has joined with residents to build a coalition to resist increased truck congestion in Will County.
Called Safe Roads Illinois, the group has created a website, www.SafeRoadsIllinois.com, with an online petition drive aimed at getting the attention of elected officials.
Elwood officials have been battling trucking interests for years, eventually succeeding in having a main entrance to CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Elwood shut down in January.
They said the new campaign is an attempt to heighten awareness and unite people who are worried about road safety in light of the growing numbers of semitrailers on the road.
"This is not just a small-town Elwood issue. This is a Will County regional issue," Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said.
Safe Roads Illinois points to 20 truck-related deaths in Will County since January 2014, along with 909 truck-related incidents and 156 truck-related injuries.
Hayes said people tend to know about incidents as they happen but are not aware of the numbers that are occurring.
"When I tell people, 'Do you know there have been 20 people killed by truck-related accidents since 2014?' they're shocked," he said. "It's great to live in a county where we are getting all this development. But a lot of development is unplanned. ... We have inadequate infrastructure to safely handle the traffic in this area. To sacrifice public safety is wrong."
Meri Knauer, whose 8-year-old granddaughter was killed in a collision with a semitrailer in 2014 in Elwood, spoke Thursday on behalf of Safe Roads Illinois.
"I felt before even the accident that the truck traffic was getting to be too much for the area," Knauer said.
Knauer, of Channahon, said just about a week before the incident that killed her granddaughter, Madison Frost of Crest Hill, she had a close encounter with a semitrailer that did a U-turn on Route 53 south of Elwood. Not long after her granddaughter's death, she said, a trucker was tailgating her on Interstate 80 so closely that she felt the driver was "playing chicken with me."
"I don't think all trucks are bad, but we have to look at the structure of where all these trucks are going," Knauer said. "Where are the cars going? Where are the people going? How when we leave our houses can we drive safely with all the trucks on the road?"
Truck safety has become a growing issue in Joliet, too, where Amazon.com recently opened a fulfillment center, and Ikea and Mars are among several companies opening new distribution centers.
Elwood Village Administrator Nick Narducci said one of the goals of Safe Roads Illinois is to spur an effort to find a regional solution that will create safer roads for both passenger vehicles and trucks.
"We have to work together to improve the safety of the area," Narducci said. "There's got to be engineers who can solve the problem and have these trucks go where they belong."
Safe Roads Illinois has launched the website, www.SafeRoadsIllinois.com, which contains images of collisions involving semitrailers and an online petition created to get the attention of elected officials.