By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
Despite what you might have heard, that tall strange-looking device attached to a stop sign at Raney Street and Jaycee Avenue is not Big Brother checking on your driving vices.
Actually, it is counting traffic there for gathering data on what could become Effingham’s fourth interstate exchange. The city engineer confirmed the device with a black box connected to a thin tower will not be catching speeders or drivers running the stop signs on the south side intersection.
“It’s part of the feasibility study for finding out the level of traffic through the industrial park,” said Effingham City Engineer Jeremy Heuerman. “We hope to finish the count by the end of the year.”
That count is concentrating on commercial trucking in relation on the city’s west side. Many visitors to the city encountering the trucks have made it known to city residents or officials.
“On Fayette Avenue with its narrow lanes, all those trucks are a hazard. People from out of town have told us, ‘Holy Cow! There are a lot of trucks in this town.’ People living here are used to it, but it is a high level,” Heuerman said.
This is the first step in data gathering for the proposed exchange within the general area between Effingham and Heartville, Heuerman noted. The City of Effingham learned earlier this year of the availability of $60,000 in grant money for funding the study with a $15,000 match requirement from local funds. Effingham City Council members agreed to move forward on the study for the new exchange to relieve large truck traffic at other exits and city roadways.
“This study will determine the most economical and feasible place to build the exchange. And a lot depends on the amount of relief for truck traffic in the city,” Heuerman explained. “So where that traffic count is done might not be the place for connecting to the interstate.”
Wherever the exchange ends up being built, it will be an expensive project, with some estimates as high as $20 million. And it will take some time before any ground is broken as well.
“That’s many years down the road,’ Heuerman said. “You need a lot of information gathered to justify a project like this one. Right now, there’s no money available for construction. So the study is the first step on this.”
Though building an exchange can be expensive, it can also lead to construction down the road.
“There will be a market analysis on jobs and revenue that this could create down there. It might be a new truck stop or new restaurants,” Heuerman said.
But that is in the future. For now, the city is conducting its “homework” on the new exchange in order to mark the route for building it.
“When we’ve done our homework, then we can say this is where it should go,” Heuerman said.