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Chillicothe to address boat ramp safety concerns

Published: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 10:17 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 10:20 a.m. CDT

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CHILLICOTHE (MCT) — A $338.60 solution to safety concerns at the boat ramp at the end of Walnut Street, where a 22-year-old Edwards woman drowned in her car in the Illinois River, emerged from a City Council committee meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The public works committee agreed on a plan to mark the area with multiple reflective stop and warning signs.

"It's a whole series of signs that I think collectively will prevent a car from entering the river," Mayor Doug Crew said.

The boat ramp is considered the likely spot where a car driven by Julie Peters entered the Illinois River on Sept. 28. Ten days later, her Chevrolet Impala was pulled from the river just south of the boat ramp, and Peters was identified as the car's lone occupant through dental records the next day.

She was reported missing after last being seen between 10:30 and 11 p.m. Sept. 28 at a wedding reception at the American Legion on Second Street, about three blocks away from the Walnut Street boat ramp.

An autopsy found drowning to be the likely cause of death. Results from toxicology tests are not yet known.

Walnut Street literally dead-ends with a short decline into the Illinois River two blocks east of City Hall. There is a similar second boat ramp a block away at the foot of Pine Street; a parking lot for vehicles towing boat trailers is located along the riverfront between the two streets.

Currently, there are no stop signs in the two-block stretch of Walnut Street from Second Street to the boat ramp to the river. The committee's safety plan puts stop signs at Walnut and First streets and a third stop sign a block away at Front Street, possibly with a flashing light, directly in front of the boat ramp.

Also, signs that warn that the road ends in a to-be-measured number of feet will be placed on Walnut and Pine streets and another sign that identifies in some way the boat ramp will be placed on the boat ramp itself. Yellow reflective stripes will line the actual ramp pavement as it declines into the river.

Committee chairman Dennis Gould said the measures would mostly aid visitors from out of town who are unfamiliar with the area by the river.

"Everyone in town knows that boat ramp," he said.

Josh Cooper, the public works director, calculated the cost of the signs at about $340. Though the plan doesn't require approval of the City Council — a committee chairman can spend up to $500 without a council vote — the plan will appear on Monday's council agenda. Also, the council must approve a change to the city's traffic ordinances to officially bestow legal authority on the new stop signs.

(c)2013 the Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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