City Beat: People, Places And Bumpy Spaces



Editor Paul Osborne

     • I RECEIVED information from the Illinois Department of Transportation that indicated, with the extreme heat expected towards the end of last week, motorists should be ready to deal with “pavement blowouts” (pavement buckling). “The hottest week of the year means the potential for pavement failures will increase,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “At IDOT, we will have the necessary staffing and materials in place to make repairs as quickly as possible. We ask the public to stay alert and avoid driving over buckled roads, if possible, while giving our crews plenty of room to work.”

     Now we know what has been happening to the state roads around and through Decatur the past few years — “pavement blowouts”, except the blowouts have not been caused by extreme heat, but by neglect of our state government. On a positive note, driving on roads that are full of cracks and potholes “resulting in uneven driving services” has made Decatur area drivers very alert to pavement blowouts. We have to be or we will have “tire(s) blowout!  FIX OUR STATE ROADS!

     • WHILE I’m on the subject of bumps, potholes and eyesores, the city council voted last week to spend a million dollars to reconstruct the parking lot at the public library downtown. The parking lot was in terrible condition before the library annex building was demolished and now, it has the distinction of being the worst parking lot in the city.

     Unless you go to the library, or drive down East Prairie or East Main Street, you may not have noticed since the parking lot is shielded from view for people driving on North Franklin Street by the library building itself. The design of the new parking lot, with green space mixed in, will be a much improved area to see and in which to park.

     It had better be something special with a million dollar price tag!!!

     • I HAD a photo in last week’s Trib of the work being done to the privately-owned parking lot located at the corner of East Main and South Water (across the street from our offices in the Millikin Court Building at 132 South Water St.). The work on the lot, which is quite extensive, has been interesting to watch over the past several weeks as our fourth floor windows present a bird’s eye view of the project.

     I have a new appreciation for how much work it takes to tear up an old parking lot and build a new one. It’s not as simple as most people might think. I also have admiration for those working on the project. You really have to know what you are doing to get a desired result. I’ll shoot some more photos as the new parking lot takes shape. Although a million dollars sounds like a lot of money for the new library parking lot (and it is), that work is going to be a major project, and, had I not watched the daily work across the street from my offices, I would probably not know how much labor, equipment and materials it takes to build a parking lot.

     • THANKS to reporter Tony Reid and the Herald & Review for printing some of my comments on the anniversary of the railway explosion that took place July 19, 1974, (45 years ago) which killed several people and injured many more. I was one of the first people on the scene and, as I told Tony, it was surreal because of the damage that had been done in the neighborhood I was walking through. (As a much younger editor, I got into the damaged area before the police were able to set up roadblocks and keep people out.)

     One of the strange sights was a house that had extreme damage with the walls gone, but the kitchen table was left intact with plates on it, apparently for people getting ready to eat breakfast. I didn’t see anyone around. Out of that surreal, quiet scene, a telephone in the kitchen area rang. As I recall, Larry Limbach, then of WDZ, who arrived on the scene not long after I did, went over and answered the phone, but there was no one on the other end of the line. It may have been someone calling to see if the residents were okay and gave up.

     As I also recall, Glen Cooper, a well-known reporter for the daily newspaper, was arrested and handcuffed by police when he insisted he had a right to be where he was, but law enforcement didn’t agree. I don’t remember if he actually went to jail, but he was restrained from entering the area and he wasn’t too happy about it. It doesn’t seem possible that it happened 45 years ago, but Tony Reid’s call immediately started generating a lot of memories of that day for me. That day is etched in my brain.

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