BLOOMINGTON — Police closed an east-side intersection for about two hours Wednesday morning because a motorist indicated that he may have been exposed to anthrax.

Bloomington police responded to a report of a motorist needing assistance around 6:47 a.m. at East Empire Street and CIRA Drive near Central Illinois Regional Airport. They found a vehicle that had pulled over in a lane of traffic and may have run out of gas, said Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner.

When officers approached the vehicle, the driver said he may have been exposed to anthrax.

“We had to secure the area in order for the fire department’s hazmat team to investigate it,” Heffner added. “During the course of the investigation, it was determined it was not anthrax.

"However, when these things take place, our protocols dictate that we’re going to have to shut down traffic," the chief said. "We do all of these things to ensure public safety. The response was appropriate today for what was alleged. We’re going to err on the side of caution.”

Nearby Central Catholic High School and businesses were not placed on lockdown, said police.

“Anytime a harmful substance is brought up, be it that or ricin or something of that nature, that initiates protocols, both by law enforcement and with the fire department with whom we had an excellent collaboration in the response today,” Heffner said. 

The driver was transported to a local hospital for unrelated medical concerns.

Witnesses said they saw a vehicle towed away from the scene and broken glass on the roadway.

The intersection of Empire Street and CIRA Drive was immediately closed along with both directions of traffic on Empire.

All lanes were reopened about 8:45 a.m.

“We would like to thank the public for their patience and understanding as we felt the need to shut down both east- and westbound lanes of Empire to keep our first responders safe in the working area of the call,” Bloomington Fire Department spokesman Stuart Blade said.

There was never a threat to the general public, said authorities.

Anita Owens of Peoria said she was concerned when she saw the road to the airport closed, fearing she might miss her 10:15 a.m. flight to Chicago.

“There is a reason you are supposed to arrive at the airport two hours early, and I always do to avoid any unforeseen hassles,” she said. “We got to the road to take us to the airport and it was closed and I started to freak out. But I told that officer I had a flight and if I didn’t get on it, he was going to be taking me to Chicago.”

All flights at the airport were on time throughout the day.

Follow Kevin Barlow on Twitter: @pg_barlow

Maria Nagle contributed to this story.

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