TEUTOPOLIS, Ill. (WCIA) — State officials are responding to the crash and HAZMAT situation in Teutopolis, and they said this is the culmination of a lot of chaos caused by construction on Interstate 70.
U.S. Route 40 is typically a quiet road that runs through the center of Teutopolis. But I-70 has been under extensive construction for the entire summer, rerouting a lot of traffic to Route 40, including many semi trucks.
Lawmakers and local authorities said it’s caused more problems than just the HAZMAT disaster. Teutopolis Fire Chief Tim McMahon said his department has responded to several accidents since March.
“Whether people are following too closely or, I don’t necessarily know if they’re speeding, I don’t think so,” McMahon said. “I think they’re just following too close or possibly texting, just not paying attention. Those are the three big things.”
The tanker truck that crashed and started leaking anhydrous ammonia on Friday was on Route 40 because it was diverted from I-70 due to a separate crash that happened earlier in the evening.
“The tanker was in the diverted traffic and then had the crash,” said State Police Lieutentant Bruce Wagner.
State Representative Adam Niemerg grew up and still lives in Teutopolis. He said that while there was panic and confusion during and after the evacuation, there was another emotion at the front of people’s minds: frustration.
“A lot of folks are a little frustrated because of what’s happening on Interstate 70,” Niemerg said. “Everything being diverted to 40. We’ve been dealing with this for months in Teutopolis. And now we have this happen.”
Niemerg and several other area lawmakers said they had meetings with state agencies earlier in the summer to try and address the extensive construction problems. But nothing has gotten better.
“We’ve been dealing with this all summer here in T-Town,” Neimerg said. “We need some accountability, but first and foremost, we need to get this cleaned up.”
Federal officials with the National Transportation Safety Board are spent Saturday night in Teutopolis to assess the damage. They will give an update on their findings and their next moves on Sunday.
Governor Pritzker has issued a statement via social media to respond to the disaster, saying
Our hearts are with the loved ones of those affected by the car crash and chemical leak in Teutopolis last night. My administration is on the ground and we will provide state support in any we can.