Widow makes emotional plea for improvements to deadly stretch of Highway 34

A dangerous 20-mile stretch of Highway 34 is deadly in Henderson County, Illinois.

Michele Schnicker shared her tragic loss on Wednesday, June 11, 2014.

“I can’t begin to tell you about the wrenching pain,” she said.

The two-lane road is the site of a dozen deaths during a decade.

Schnicker’s husband, Douglas, was struck head-on by a semi that crossed the center line on February 11, 2013.

“My husband had died at the scene, and I couldn’t believe it,” she recalled.

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That’s why more than 100 residents, businesses and elected officials went  to Biggsville. The Highway 34 Coalition is renewing the push to convert the 20-mile section to four lanes by 2020.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Miriam Rutzen, who began lobbying for change as a high school student in 2009. “I’m a little scared. I don’t really want to die on my way to work.”

While a $40.5 million segment should be ready in November, it’s just the start. The project needs funding for nearly 19 more miles.

“Proactively saving lives, kids, adults, any age,” Rutzen continued. “It’s hard to walk away from that instead of taking care of it.”

Their partnership must strengthen to finish 20 miles by 2020. It will require federal and state support to get the job done.

Federal money could come from a stalled Transportation Bill. Illinois money also needs to be renewed in Springfield.

The price tag tops a whopping $235 million, and it gets more expensive each day.

“My family, friends and faith give me the support and strength to live,” said Schnicker.

That tragic outcome is making the call for safety even stronger.

“We need to bridge our communities, both Iowa and Illinois,” she concluded. “We are a unified community.”

It’s a timely reminder to make Highway 34 safer for drivers.

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