Saturday, May 6, 2006
With a slow-speed sign in one hand and a radar gun in the other, an Illinois State Police trooper began patching holes in Interstate 74's fast lane.
Posing as a construction worker, Trooper Brian Copple targeted speeding vehicles through the I-74 construction work zones Friday morning.
In just two hours, police issued 26 tickets for speeding and seat belt violations, Copple said. Eleven warnings also were handed out for equipment violations or following too closely.
"It's very deceiving. Next time, we might be on a lawn mower, in a pickup truck or just sitting in a marked squad (car)," Copple said while pulling the trigger of a hand-held radar gun. "And we're going to continue doing this."
Concealed by an Illinois Department of Transportation dump truck, a handful of troopers in their squad cars, dubbed the "catch cars," sat in wait. When Copple "caught" a speeding vehicle, he simply radioed its description, and a flash of police lights sped to the traffic stop.
Each speeding ticket carried a fine of $375 or more.
State Police started about 9 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of I-74 near the Forrest Hill overpass. Later, they moved to the Gale Street overpass and finally to East Peoria. Police plan to stake out the entire stretch from Peoria to Morton at least until fall.
On Sunday, State Police used an airplane to monitor highway speed and issued 26 speeding tickets along I-74 in East Peoria, "all 65 mph and over, so we weren't knit-picking by any means," Copple said.
George Ryan, implementation engineer with IDOT's Peoria district, said state crews are working with police.
"We want the work zones safer," Ryan said. "(The speeding) was real bad this spring. I'll be driving the posted limit in the construction zone and cars will pass me, so I know it's still a problem."
Jasper Wolfe, a construction worker whose job often has him holding the caution sign, said a police car's presence makes a difference.
"It's amazing how much slower people drive when they see the police," Wolfe said.
Dave Haney can be reached at 686-3181 or email@example.com.