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Drivers navigate the new three-way stop last week at Venture Drive and 38th Street in Peru’s shopping district. Police said there were few problems and no backups on 38th Street east to Route 251.
NewsTribune photo/Anthony Souffle
Problems date back to at least 2002
According to News Tribune archives, the city of Peru has discussed traffic backing up to Route 251 from Venture Drive and 38th Street since at least 2002. 2002: The city council heard a list of proposals recommended by Chamlin & Associates, engineering consultant for the city. They included a right-turn lane on eastbound 38th Street; widening the west end of 38th Street; making Venture Drive a one-way street heading north and heading south; and adding pavement markings and signs. The price tag was estimated at $80,000-$85,000. New lane and turn-arrows were painted that summer but other changes were put on hold. 2003: Police chief Glenn Fredrickson recommended a three-way stop instead of a four-way to clear backups. A month before Christmas the city removed the stop sign for westbound traffic at 38th Street and Venture Drive. It seemed to work but some confusion prompted the city to reinstall the stop sign in January 2004. 2005: A list of the city’s remaining traffic challenges included 38th and Venture. The city hoped Wal-Mart’s decision to move north of Interstate 80 would alleviate backups. 2006: Peru aldermen did a “double-take” when they saw a plan drawn up two years earlier to address backups. Illinois Department of Transportation expressed concern about the number of crashes at 38th and 251 due to backups. IDOT made proposals and Chamlin repeated its recommendations. Peru ushered in Black Friday with a three-vehicle accident and temporary flashing red lights at 38th Street and Route 251. Police Lt. Dominic Andreoni said: “It’s a bottleneck waiting to happen and it happens every Christmas (season).”
Thursday and Friday’s shopping surge tested one of Peru’s busiest intersections, which underwent major changes this year to ease congestion. Earlier last week leading up to Friday’s blitz, a handful of drivers U-turned their way around the inconveniences at Venture Drive and 38th Street just north of Peru Mall, despite large signs saying “no turn around.” “I’m waiting to see (Black) Friday, how it’s going to work out,” said Jamie Beckman, a technician at the nearby Oil Wizard 10-minute oil change. The intersection was a four-way stop until the city changed it to a three-way stop this summer to prevent westbound cars on 38th Street from backing up to Route 251. North- and south-bound drivers on Venture can only turn right. Shoppers and some businesses protested. The city asked drivers and businesses to be patient and adapt. When the retail blitz was under way Thursday and Black Friday, police saw few problems, said police chief Doug Bernabei and deputy chief Bob Pyszka. Traffic backed up somewhat in the other direction, west toward Peoria Street, they said. Police placed extra patrols and Emergency Services and Disaster Agency in the shopping district on Thursday and Friday. “Route 251 has seen definite improvement,” Bernabei said. Mayor Scott Harl said there is no more tweaking needed for the intersection’s orange pylons, signs and striping. “Everything is working very well up there and there is no reason to visit it at this time and for the foreseeable future,” he said. “And we’ve had no complaints at city hall for the last six to eight weeks. I don’t think we’re going to see a backup of incoming traffic.” There have been no accidents since the changes, Harl said. He produced Illinois Department of Transportation data that showed there were 72 accidents with 29 injuries from 2007-11 at Route 251 and 38th Street. Despite early success of relieving backups to Route 251, quirks remain. A five-minute observation early last week showed some drivers, turning west from southbound Venture were still using the Hobby Lobby parking lot to turn around and head back east on 38th Street. Some businesses still dislike it. On the south side of Venture at Oil Wizard, manager Jim Beckman and four technicians — Ray Locati, David Kilanowski, Jamie Beckman and Cory Loechner — said the intersection confuses people. “People are still going through the parking lot,” Loechner said, referring to the Hobby Lobby turn-arounds. “Some people are suggesting the round-about,” Locati said. Oil Wizard banks at Hometown National Bank on the southeast corner of the intersection. A trip there now requires them to drive the long way around or to walk, Kilanowski said. Jim Beckman showed petition sheets to revert to a four-way stop. He produced 11 pages with roughly 50 signatures. Jim Beckman said he ran an ad for five weeks on radio to help customers negotiate the intersection. “It did virtually nothing,” Beckman said. Because of right-turn-only options on Venture Drive, mall visitors can no longer drive straight over for an oil change, Jim Beckman said. Across the road, business was good two days before Thanksgiving at Peru Place Shopping Centre which includes Dollar Tree, Goodwill, MC Sports and Hobby Lobby. Shoppers Marilyn Jensen and Debbie Pease from Princeton shop in Peru about once per week, they said. Asked about the intersection, they laughed and Jensen said: “It’s a pain.” “When you want to turn left to go back to (Interstate) 80 the only option is to turn right,” Jensen said. “And when you’re coming from Princeton, you want to go back to 80.” Ashley Martin of Ottawa, a manager at MC Sports, said customers complain of the intersection. “But I think people are getting used to it,” Martin said. “But some people don’t abide by (traffic rules). They’re pulling U-turns. Nobody pays attention. I think it was a bad idea. There’s nothing we can do about it. You just have to deal with it.”
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