By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Bumper-to-bumper traffic on a Saturday in Quincy isn't uncommon. The Broadway corridor, home to many businesses and restaurants, can be a bear every week no matter what the time of year.
But it's rare for the downtown area to see that type of gridlock. On Saturday morning, traffic clogged South Fifth Street for two solid blocks as people tried to make their way around street closures caused by Friday's fire at the historic Newcomb Hotel at the corner of Fourth and Maine in the heart of downtown.
Marty Stegeman, director of Central Services, surveyed the scene near the intersection of South Fifth and Maine on Saturday morning and all but threw up his arms.
"We don't have enough manpower to send traffic elsewhere right now," Stegeman said. "You leave lights on flash and run the stoplights like they would normally run."
It is not known how long the streets around the hotel will be closed
The flashing red light at Fifth and Maine was the root of the traffic evil on Saturday. The area near the fire was still drawing onlookers. Add that to the irregular traffic flow caused by the road closures and it created a slow drive for those passing through.
The hotel sits right next to Ill. 57, which ends at Maine Street. North of Maine, Fourth Street turns into U.S. 24. To complicate matters, all traffic that arrives in Quincy from Missouri across the Memorial Bridge comes directly on to Maine Street. With Maine closed between Third Street and Fifth Street, all traffic coming from the bridge was being diverted south to York Street and many cars then moved north on South Fifth Street to get into the city.
"The big concern right now is heavy truck traffic on the infrastructure," Stegeman said.
Early Saturday afternoon, a detour was set up for traffic on Illinois 57 at Jefferson Street. Non-local traffic was being diverted to South Eighth Street to Broadway to access the Bayview Bridge. Local traffic had the option of going to Front Street to Vermont to North Fourth Street to get back to the area.
Stegeman didn't know how long the roads around the hotel would be closed.
"We might be able to get (Maine Street between Third and Fourth) open by Monday, but I'm not going to hold my breath," he said.
Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley is hoping the traffic situation is rectified quickly.
"We're hoping that it won't go too far into the work week," he said. "For the rest of the weekend, this area that is cordoned off is going to continue to be. If we can get a crew in to start knocking the (hotel) walls down and make it safe on the street, we can open up at least one lane of Fourth Street so that we can get that traffic routed to where it needs to go."
Stegeman had to work with the Illinois Department of Transportation on the detours and road closures since state roads are involved.
There will be some parking restrictions in the downtown area, too. Parking will not be allowed on South Fifth Street between Jersey and Maine until further notice.