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Here comes the next big construction project push

Tuesday, Nov 9, 2021

* Greg Hinz

With the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill now awaiting only a presidential signature, a parade of state and local officials is moving to insure that a stalled plan to rebuild the Eisenhower Expressway is a priority to get some of that money.

Legislative leaders, Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi and top labor officials are set to hold a press conference in the morning intended to give a big push to fund reconstruction of I-290 from the Jane Byrne Interchange to Hillside.

The state in 2017 estimated the cost of rebuilding the road and the Chicago Transit Authority blue line, which runs in its center, at $3.2 billion. But no construction has occurred because the state has lacked funding.

Notice of the event came from a spokesman for IUOE Local 150, a politically connected union representing operating engineers that has considerable Springfield influence.

* Press release…

Following the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Senate President Don Harmon will join the Rebuild 290 Coalition today to call for federal funds to speed up the reconstruction of Interstate 290 from Hillside to the Byrne Interchange and the CTA’s Blue Line. Both legislative chambers passed Senate Joint Resolution 31 in June, which requested federal support to expedite engineering and construction.

Local mayors, business leaders, organized labor representatives, community organizations and economic policy analysts will discuss I-290’s current state of disrepair as well as the economic, community and safety benefits of the proposed reconstruction.

* From the Illinois Economic Policy Institute…

A multi-modal infrastructure proposal that would modernize the 13-mile stretch of I-290 between I-94 and the I-88/294 interchange would create more than 22,000 jobs, reduce traffic congestion by 25-56%, and dramatically enhance access to jobs for Chicago’s most disadvantaged communities, according to a new study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI).

The $2.7 billion project, which combines innovative transit and pedestrian improvements alongside bridge and roadway upgrades, is projected by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to provide amongst the best economic, equity, and traffic impacts of any project in the region by 2050. The recently passed Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 31 encouraged priority funding for the project. […]

Originally built in the 1950’s alongside CTA’s blue-line, as much as ninety percent of the project’s existing pavement structure is original and exceeds the normal roadway design life of 25-30 years. Of its 44 bridges, 34% are considered “structurally deficient” and 86% are “functionally obsolete,” according to Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) data. According to CMAP, vehicle traffic on the stretch has increased by more than 16% since 1984.

In her research, Tyler illustrates the severely limited pedestrian access to adjacent transit facilities, emphasizing safety hazards from narrow sidewalks along busy roads and dangerous crosswalks across I-290 exit and entrance ramps. Tyler also found that over the past decade, I-290 had both the highest number of fatal crashes and the highest fatal crash rate amongst comparable stretches of highway in the Chicago metropolitan area. […]

The proposed I-290 reconstruction project, that was detailed in a 2017 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the Illinois Department of Transportation, incorporates not only bridge and highway upgrades—including a new High Occupancy Toll lane (HOT3+) to support Express Bus service and promote carpooling—but also wider sidewalks, pedestrian safety islands, high visibility crosswalks, lighting, and signals to better facilitate pedestrian/bicycle traffic and transit riders. A concurrent CTA project would upgrade blue line transit facilities, including reconstruction of the entire Forest Park Branch (including track and related infrastructure) as well as stations from UIC-Halsted to Forest Park and six substations.

By 2050, CMAP projects the project will reduce travel times by 25-56%, while increasing the number of jobs within 45 minutes of each household in the region by more than 17,000, and high wage jobs not requiring a college degree for “Economically Disconnected Areas” (EDAs) by more than 1,300. Importantly, it projects that fully 31% of those using the rehabilitated stretch of I-290 will come from EDAs, making the project not only one of the region’s best values to reduce congestion, but to expand opportunity to historically marginalized communities.

Using industry standard IMPLAN modelling, Tyler’s study examined the potential overall economic impact of the project, concluding that it would create nearly 22,000 new jobs paying an average of almost $80,000 per year, while growing the economy by more than $2.6 billion and boosting local, state and federal tax revenues by more than $450 million.

“While I-290 is a prime example of an infrastructure corridor in dire need of attention for safety and traffic related concerns, it is an equally stark example of how such investments can be a game changer for the local economy that uplifts our most historically disadvantaged communities,” Tyler added.

While SJR 31 were recently passed, calling for the project to be prioritized, a funding source has yet to be identified. However, Tyler’s research highlights several potential sources—including tens of millions in toll revenues expected from the project, a new state law providing Tax Increment Financing for certain transit systems, and the possibility of over $300 billion in new federal transportation funds that have been proposed as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The full study is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

23 Comments
  1. - Amalia - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 9:53 am:

    just saw an interesting piece on roads from recycled plastic on WGN. very large pallet like pieces are locked together and the work not only lasts longer than other surfaces but it can contain water beneath it. certainly industries fight for place, but different kinds of surfaces for roads are worth exploring.


  2. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 9:53 am:

    Are they gonna cap it in Oak Park?


  3. - Miso - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 9:59 am:

    For the love of God, please get rid of the left side exit ramps at Austin and Harlem. Just the worst of the worst. Harmon once mentioned to me that Oak Park people love those exits because “it’s soooo Oak Park.”

    Stop the left side exit insanity.


  4. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 10:08 am:

    ==For the love of God, please get rid of the left side exit ramps at Austin and Harlem.==

    The plan calls for the Harlem and Austin interchanges to be on the right then curve over the expressway and meet in a large traditional intersection over the highway.


  5. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 10:14 am:

    Did the Dan Ryan reconstruction yield the same economic benefits they’re projecting for I-290? It’s been nearly 15 years, surely by now there’s something to measure.


  6. - Cool Papa Bell - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 10:14 am:

    @Anonymous =as much as ninety percent of the project’s existing pavement structure is original and exceeds the normal roadway design life of 25-30 years.=

    I-290 is way past the updating stage. I’d like to see all those things you talked about but those are apples to oranges when discussing the rebuild of a major interstate through the third or fourth largest city in the United States.


  7. - Friendly Bob Adams - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 10:21 am:

    They just finished rebuilding much of the area just west of the Byrne interchange.


  8. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 10:38 am:

    The plans are posted on IDOT. I attended a few of their public forums years ago at UIC replete with models of the whole corridor. Some things I remember are the possible extension of Blue Line to Hillside, a roundabouts at the Des Plaines exit, the driving lanes would be slightly skinnier through Oak Park, Circle Ave bridge being totally out of code, major drainage issues in Forest Park, CSX right-of-way issues. I remember asking about squeezing in bike lanes but don’t think they had an answer.

    https://www.eisenhowerexpressway.com/info_center/#cta_announces_blue_line_vision_study_in_coordination_


  9. - Sir Reel - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 10:52 am:

    At $2.7 billion, even the new federal infrastructure program isn’t enough unless most/all of Illinois’ allotment goes to it. Need to come up with a menu of smaller parts.


  10. - supplied_demand - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 11:34 am:

    ==At $2.7 billion, even the new federal infrastructure program isn’t enough unless most/all of Illinois’ allotment goes to it. Need to come up with a menu of smaller parts. ==

    We also have the big Illinois infrastructure bill to pull funds from.


  11. - Huh? - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 11:36 am:

    Increase the cost estimate and construction schedule by 100% and you might be in the ballpark.

    Given the tight work zone and heavy traffic, costs and schedule explode.


  12. - Springfield Watcher - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 11:54 am:

    With so many people leaving Illinois maybe these projects should be scaled back. But of course common sense and government don’t go togeather.


  13. - DuPage - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 11:58 am:

    Anything that reduces congestion also reduces air pollution. One other badly needed project is the Illiana Expressway, and it should extend to I-80 on the west end. That would relieve a lot of congestion along 1-55.


  14. - MisterJayEm - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 12:09 pm:

    1) Anyone know how long this reconstruction is projected to take?

    2) “reduce traffic congestion by 25-56%”

    Right-hand exits at Harlem and Austin might accomplish this all by themselves. As is, those are counterintuitive disaster zones.

    – MrJM


  15. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 12:24 pm:

    ===With so many people leaving Illinois maybe these projects should be scaled back===

    That makes absolutely zero sense.


  16. - NonAFSCMEStateEmployeeFromChatham - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 12:31 pm:

    Unlikely this will happen but hopefully part of the 290 reconstruction will include taking down those useless Route 110 and CKC signs. Since down here in the Springfield area we know from experience and traffic levels that 55 and 72 around the Capitol comprise the True CKC.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 12:38 pm:

    ===With so many people leaving Illinois maybe these projects should be scaled back===

    Business investment and relocation has infrastructure as a string factor in choosing where to be… Illinois is a national transportation hub, a global port, if you will, by rail, air… and road.

    Why would anyone want to be Mississippi or Alabama in interstate/transportation planning?


  18. - Jibba - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 1:47 pm:

    ===With so many people leaving Illinois===

    Common sense also does not always go with commenting on blogs.


  19. - Six Degrees of Separation - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 2:10 pm:

    ===I remember asking about squeezing in bike lanes but don’t think they had an answer.===

    There is a separate bike path planned on the north side of the expressway connecting the Prairie Path to Columbus Park, and the bridges over the Ike will also be reconstructed to be more bike and ped friendly.


  20. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 2:25 pm:

    Any time I see reference to an IMPLAN study, I know the numbers aren’t real.


  21. - City Zen - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 2:40 pm:

    ==There is a separate bike path planned on the north side of the expressway connecting the Prairie Path to Columbus Park==

    Right, but that path is awkwardly wedged into that space and won’t go downtown. The idea was to allocate space within the corridor that is off-street. There is definitely space for bike lanes east of Central to at least Garfield Park path and possibly UIC Med District.


  22. - Blanche - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 4:17 pm:

    Somebody might want to check with US Secretary Pete. He may want to move it to another area.


  23. - Long Time Listener . . . - Tuesday, Nov 9, 21 @ 4:19 pm:

    Dear God, please let them finish the Dan Ryan/Jane Byrne flyover project before they start on the rebuilding of 290! And maybe this time they can actually fix the Hillside Strangler instead of just move it further down the way!


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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