Officials will discuss whether more can be done to prevent other tragedies
Whether fencing belongs on Interstate 74’s overpasses is determined on a case-by-case basis, a leading design engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Peoria area district said Tuesday.
Eric Therkildsen, an engineer who worked on the Upgrade 74 project, said the newly reconstructed interstate is safe despite Saturday’s tragedy at the Broadway Street overpass, where a concrete patio block was tossed over a 9-foot-tall fence, striking and killing 26-year-old Katrina Kelly, who was a passenger in a vehicle on I-74 below.
"The likelihood of something like this happening … what are the odds?" Therkildsen said, but added that IDOT will discuss with Peoria police and the Illinois State Police whether any changes need to be made. "We’re talking with the city and the State Police and having discussions with them on anything that can be done."
Therkildsen said IDOT’s administrative policy governs how high fences at overpasses can go and whether there is enough justification for one to be installed. The same policy is in effect throughout the state.
Fencing is required at every overpass where there is a sidewalk, he said.
Most of I-74’s overpasses through East Peoria, Downtown, and farther west have overpasses with two sidewalks. As such, each side has a fence.
"It’s for the safety of pedestrians walking and for motorists," said Laura Lehmann, spokeswoman with IDOT’s Upgrade 74 project, a massive overhaul of I-74 that began in 2002 and was completed in November.
Some overpasses through Peoria do not have a sidewalk and it is illegal for pedestrians to walk in those areas. Most notable is on University Street and Knoxville Avenue.
Therkildsen said there is "no justification" to build a fence where pedestrians are not allowed. He said to build one would be "cost-prohibitive."
"Obviously, there has to be some sort of justification and monetary thing of installing fences everywhere," he said. "It’s against the law for pedestrians to be on those areas. The odds of them being there is slim."
Therkildsen said IDOT is aware of past instances where people have tossed items onto I-74, but he is unsure if there will be any changes stemming from Saturday’s tragedy.
"I don’t know, it’s all still pretty fresh," he said. "Along with the rest of Peoria, we are saddened about this."
Illinois State Police Trooper Tony Halsey said the recently completed construction of the interstate is not to blame.
He considers the road safe even though there is ongoing work to install guardrails. Guardrail work, for example, is continuing today on westbound I-74 from Pinecrest Drive to Washington Street in East Peoria.
"Something like this could happen whether they just redid I-74 or not," Halsey said. "We hope and pray it never happens again."
John Sharp can be reached at (309) 686-3234 or email@example.com.