When driving in to see the Farm Progress Show, you'll be moved along by three different law enforcement units all working together.
First, the Illinois State Police will usher folks in off I-72. The Macon County Sheriff's Department guides traffic along the county roads and highways. The Decatur Police Department has the last leg along Brush College Road, which runs parallel to the show site.
Remember, pay attention to the law enforcement officer and follow his/her commands. This may seem like an easy thing to remember, but officers at the FPS traffic meeting say it happens all the time. They'll be signaling a motorist in a certain direction, but the motorist refuses to move because the light is red.
Just realize the officer is well aware of what's happening in the intersection. If you refuse to move, you're holding up traffic. And, yes, if he/she is waving you through a stop sign, ignore the stop sign and go.
Aside from the occasional driver miscue, Bruce Bird, engineer with the Macon County Highway Department, says they've got it down to a science. It's another benefit of the semi-permanent show sites.
Two weeks prior to the show, semi-permanent FPS signs will begin popping up 10-15 miles away on major highways and interstates. "The moorings for the signs are permanent, so we just drop in the show signs and bolt them down," Bird says.
As motorists get close to Decatur, the law enforcement officers take over. Once inside the show grounds, FPS staff will direct visitors to a parking spot. Remember, the lot is an alfalfa field. A light shower or two could create mud in the parking lot.
Also, the parking lot is big. Check for landmarks, or count rows, as you walk in. Additionally, courtesy shuttles will be available for those who cannot make the walk to the show grounds. Ask one of the parking attendants to arrange a pickup.
Each morning, the traffic team usually begins setting up barricades at 6 a.m. Even that early, Bird says visitors are typically waiting at the gate.
The morning rush begins around 8 a.m. and tapers off around 9:30 a.m. Bird says leaving traffic isn't as bad because folks trickle out and officers can direct motorists to a variety of exit routes.
Another word of warning for folks who live in and around Decatur: if you don't have a reason to travel near the show site, avoid it.
Officers warn many times commuters will use the route in an attempt to get onto I-72 via Route 48/exit 144. These folks are usually traveling against the flow and it takes an extremely long time to get them where they want to go.
Just remember, if you're not going to the show, try to avoid the area. If you are, follow the officer's directions above all else. If an officer is not in the immediate area, follow the FPS signage to get to your destination.
Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Shad Edwards says the biggest concern during the Farm Progress Show is the 1 ½- to 2-mile backup that typically forms on the interstate just before the gates open.
That backup is potentially deadly for an inattentive driver that's cruising along in the right lane. Plus, don't forget the speed limit on Illinois interstates recently jumped to 70 mph.
To help alleviate that backup, which occurs at Decatur exit 144 on I-72, Edwards encourages eastbound motorists to take advantage of an alternate route into the show this year. Instead of exit 144, try jumping off I-72 at exit 141. From there, take Illinois route 51 south to Mound Road. Go east on Mound and follow signage into the show.
There's another bonus to taking the alternate route – there's plenty of services along the way, including a Walmart, Target and numerous restaurants. At exit 144, there is a single gas station, which will take showgoers against the flow of traffic. So, a quick pit stop to use the facilities could result in a 20-minute delay as motorists backtrack to re-enter the flow, Edwards warns.