EDITOR'S NOTE: This story first appeared in the Tribune-Star in December, 2014.
Avon resident Rich Schneirov used to drive Interstate 70 to Terre Haute, where he is a history professor at Indiana State University.
Now, he takes U.S. 40, for two reasons: it’s safer, and I-70 is unpredictable, especially during construction season. He makes the trip two to three times a week.
When construction season is under way, “There is no advantage anymore” in terms of saving time, he said. Schneirov has found that it typically takes an extra five to 10 minutes on I-70 when road construction is ongoing.
U.S. 40 takes five to seven minutes longer when there is no construction on the interstate, he said.
Also, if he takes I-70 during construction season, he risks being later for class in the event of unexpected traffic delays.
The overriding concern, though, is safety. With all the semis on I-70, “It’s dangerous,” he said. “I had a truck tire blow up in front of me and destroy the front part of my car. I thought debris would go through my windshield.”
On I-70, “you have to be much more attentive to the dangers of driving than you do on U.S. 40,” where the legal speed is lower and there are far fewer semis.
For Schneirov, safety has become the most important consideration.
Though there has been construction on U.S. 40 in Brazil, “I’ve never had any problems with construction in Brazil slowing me up in either the morning or evening.”
The trip on U.S. 40 takes about one hour and 20 minutes. He’s been on the ISU faculty about 25 years, 15 of which he’s spent commuting.
Ron Carpenter, executive director of the ISU Foundation, lives in northeast Indianapolis and makes the drive to Terre Haute about twice a week, staying in an apartment while here.
Typically, he’ll get up early Monday and leave about 5:30-5:45 a.m. for the drive to Terre Haute, which minimizes the amount of traffic he’ll encounter on I-70. He’ll stay that night, then make the return trip Tuesday evening. Driving home during the height of rush hour “is a challenge,” he admitted.
The university and foundation have office space in Indianapolis, and he typically works there Wednesdays.
On Thursday morning, he’ll again leave home early and make the trip to Terre Haute and return home Friday night.
He’s been commuting for about three years and “I’m looking forward to it being over,” he said. After his youngest child graduates high school, he and his wife may move closer to Terre Haute or at least to the west side of Indianapolis.
Driving to Terre Haute in the early morning hours “saves me a lot of headaches,” he said. But driving back to Indianapolis during rush hour takes a toll.
He’s encountered slow, and stopped, traffic. “I’ve sat on the highway 45 minutes,” he said. “It is what it is.” He’s aware of some of the “horrible” accidents that have occurred on the interstate.
Periodically, he’ll take U.S. 40. “I’m more of a gambler” than some others who make the drive, he said.
When he first began commuting for the ISU foundation post, his wife would call and ask, “Did you get there safely?”
This past year, “I’ve noticed a lot more state police in medians and having their [emergency] lights on” as drivers approach construction zones and lanes merge into one, he said. “I think that has helped slow down semis.”
Truck driver Justin Biddle of Terre Haute agrees that the visible police presence has had a positive effect.
He believes the Indiana Department of Transportation and Indiana State Police have taken appropriate measures to keep the highway safe when construction is under way. At construction zones, there is “a heavy police presence” and INDOT has provided signage miles in advance to warn motorists they are approaching a construction zone and will need to merge.
Biddle, an employee of Morris Trucking, drives a semi to Indianapolis two or three times a month.
When I-70 construction is ongoing, his advice to motorists is to “slow down, pay attention and put the phone down.” He believes that would cut down on many problems.
He’d like to see a third lane of traffic each way, eastbound and westbound, from Effingham, Ill., to Indianapolis. “I think it would help.”
During construction season, Biddle tries to take the back roads instead of I-70. “There are plenty of alternative routes.”
He’s been a trucker for 13 years and has worked for Morris Trucking for seven.
The construction is “a hassle,” he said, and he’s not sure why there’s so much of it and in what appears to be the same areas.
Biddle has special advice for car drivers maneuvering around semis. “Give us room. Don’t tailgate or cut us off,” he said. When passing, pass and move on. “Don’t hang around us ... if we have an emergency and a car beside us, we have nowhere to go,” the trucker said.
Because construction ended Dec. 1 for the winter and barrels removed, “It’s pretty smooth sailing” on I-70 right now,” Biddle said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at email@example.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.