ELWOOD – Construction started Monday to improve the intersection of Route 53 and Hoff Road at the entrance of Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood.
The project is part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Chicago-to-St. Louis high-speed rail program, which IDOT stated in a news release will include improvements to 150 crossings along the route.
The railway runs along Route 53 and requires the addition of right- and left-turn lanes on southbound Route 53 at Hoff Road, as well as the installation of new traffic signals and drainage structure.
Elwood Police Chief Fred Hayes said improvements at the intersection have been talked about for “quite some time.” He said there have been a number of traffic crashes at or near the intersection, including one in which a woman and baby traveling in a car were hit as they exited the cemetery.
“I’m glad improvements are moving forward,” Hayes said. “We’ve had some horrific accidents at that intersection. This should improve safety for funeral processions and make it easier to get out of the cemetery without getting hit.”
Hayes reiterated statements made in February that he believes recent incidents when truckers have made a wrong turn and driven through the cemetery in attempts to get back on the right route have spotlighted the issue.
In order to complete the work, Hoff Road will be closed east of Route 53 until the winter months. Route 53 also will be reduced to one lane in each direction while construction is taking place.
A posted detour will direct eastbound traffic on Hoff Road to go north on Route 53, east on Mississippi Avenue, and south on Chicago Street to meet back up with Hoff Road. Westbound traffic on Hoff Road will take the reverse route. Access to the cemetery will be maintained at all times.
“Motorists can expect delays and should allow extra time for trips through this area,” the IDOT news release states. “Drivers are urged to pay close attention to flaggers and signs in the work zones, obey the posted speed limits and be on the alert for workers and equipment.”