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Roundabout proposed to replace intersection at Science Ridge Road and Illinois Route 40

Safety concerns have prompted the Illinois Department of Transportation to study the intersection and set a plan in motion to make improvements.
Credit: Illinois DOT

STERLING, Ill. — A proposal is on the table to reconstruct an intersection where several serious crashes have happened through the years.

RELATED: One teen killed, another injured in rural Sterling crash

RELATED: Second crash within a week at IL Route 40 intersection in Whiteside County

The Illinois Department of Transportation has proposed making a roundabout in place of the two-way stop intersection at Science Ridge Road and Illinois Route 40. 

This intersection, located in a rural area north of Sterling, has raised concerns among residents.  A group has been made on Facebook dedicated to raising awareness of the intersection and "tracking the progress" of improving the safety. This group is called "Science Ridge Road / Route 40 concerns."

As of Wednesday, April 28, IDOT has proposed turning the intersection into a roundabout with a 14-foot-wide single lane. Surrounding the center of the roundabout would be a 14-foot wide concrete truck apron, made to provide extra space for large trucks, farm equipment and emergency vehicles.

Credit: Illinois DOT

A virtual meeting about the intersection's safety revealed that between 2015 and 2020 crash data showed there had been 20 wrecks at the Science Ridge Road / Illinois Route 40 intersection. 

Michael Kuehn, said the majority of these crashes were found to be angle crashes, where both vehicles are going straight, resulting in a T-bone-type crash; and involved "Type A" or incapacitating injuries. 

"The number and severity of the crashes immediately caused us to delve further into the situation and determine what we could do to improve this situation," he said. 

He went on to explain that several of the crashes happened after a driver stopped at the Science Ridge Road stop sign, but then proceeded into the intersection and were hit by an vehicle coming perpendicular on Illinois Route 40.  He said this could be due to insufficient sight distance or when a driver thinks they have enough time to cross safely, but the oncoming vehicle is going faster than it appears.

These findings, and others, led to the determination that the engineering needed to reduce the number of conflicts causing angle crashes, improve site distance, reduce obstructions that drivers using the turn lane cause, and manage speeds.

As part of a pre-phase of improving the intersection's safety, rumble strips and flashers were installed on Science Ridge Road. Video of the installation was posted to the Facebook group on March 2, 2021.

According to the Illinois DOT, upcoming Phases I and II include preparing contract bid plans and Phase III would be construction.  As of late April 2021, these three phases were unfunded. 

A roundabout is a circular intersection that moves counter-clockwise. All traffic entering the roundabout yields to all cars that are inside the circle. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, roundabouts have improved safety by reducing operating speeds and conflict points between travelers as well as eliminating high-conflict angles. 

Learn more about roundabouts and studies from the Illinois DOT, here

The following statistics about roundabout safety are from the Illinois DOT: 

  •  More than 90% reduction in fatalities
  • 76% reduction in injuries
  • 35% reduction in all crashes
  • Slower speeds are generally safer for pedestrians