Troopers issue 50 tickets during special detail in I-74 construction zone

By WEEK Producer

July 9, 2013 Updated Jul 9, 2013 at 9:37 PM CDT

MORTON, Ill. -- Illinois State Police are warning drivers to slow down and get off their cell phones while driving through work zones.

Tuesday morning officers handed out nearly 50 tickets in the I-74/I-155 construction site in Morton, where they say the problem is getting out of hand.

Illinois State Police Trooper Tony Slaughter looked like any other construction worker perched atop a machine on Interstate 74, but Slaughter is not doing construction work, he is catching speeders and drivers talking on cell phones.

"Cell phone usage seems to be a real problem," said Trooper Slaughter. "Speed also is a problem. We've had speeds in the upper 60s close to 70 which I find is a real problem."

ISP Troopers said since the $86 million construction project started in April, 345 tickets were issued for speeding and cell phone use in the work zone.

On Tuesday they set up a special detail to catch speeders.

Trooper Dustin Pierce said drivers have been ticketed for going as fast as 96 miles an hour in a 45 mile per hour construction zone.

"Troopers have arrested people for going 89 miles an hour," said Trooper Pierce. "We have a 90 mile an hour, a 93, 95, 96. Those people were arrested and taken to the Tazewell County jail."

That is little consolation for construction workers who put their lives at risk each day in work zones.

"It's nerve wracking experience," said Ben Tellefson, an engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation. "I've got a wife and two kids. They all want me to come home the end of the day and the same with all the other guys out here. We have trucks coming in and out, we're working day and night."

The summer construction season typically lasts just a few months but IDOT says the I-74 project near Morton will last for two more years.

Illinois State Police say special radar details like this one will be executed as long as drivers keeping speeding.