Proponents of a multi-use trail system got some good news from the Illinois Department of Transportation recently.

In an apparent softening of its previous position, the Illinois Department of Transportation has agreed to consider incorporating enhanced shoulders into a proposed U.S. 40 upgrade west of Effingham.

“We would love to accommodate them if we can,” said Tim Jackson, program development engineer for the IDOT District 7 Effingham office. “We’ll look more into the safety aspects of their request as the project gets closer.”

Jackson said the U.S. 40 upgrade between Effingham High School and Lake Sara Road won’t happen for several years, at the earliest. He added there are several issues involved with adding shoulders to the project, including steep dropoffs in some areas that would make paving difficult, narrow bridges that don’t have room for a shoulder and the old highway’s proximity to Interstate 70, which has shoulders.

Even though the I-70 shoulders can’t be used by non-motorized traffic, Jackson said finding funds for the U.S. 40 shoulders could be an issue because the two highways are less than three miles apart in the project area.

TREC Chairman Frank Brummer said at Thursday’s board meeting, the shoulder issue is important because more than 15 percent of people killed in Illinois highway accidents are bicyclists, runners or pedestrians.

“We don’t need to remove the cars,” Brummer said. “We just need a place for everybody.”

Brummer praised IDOT for its willingness to consider shoulders.

“IDOT has done a good job of supporting TREC,” the chairman said. “I’m glad they have agreed to meet us halfway.”

Also Thursday, Brummer said any member of the public wishing to serve on the TREC board should call Amy Niebrugge at 217-857-6649 or e-mail the organization at info@effinghamcountytrail.com.

Board elections will be held in January.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151 ext. 132 or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

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