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$340M Tollway Project Improves Access to O'Hare

Wed April 26, 2023 - Midwest Edition #9
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent


The two ramp bridges connecting to the west side of the airport will both total 1,900 ft. in length, with 17 steel girders to support the new ramps.
(Illinois Tollway photo)
The two ramp bridges connecting to the west side of the airport will both total 1,900 ft. in length, with 17 steel girders to support the new ramps. (Illinois Tollway photo)
The two ramp bridges connecting to the west side of the airport will both total 1,900 ft. in length, with 17 steel girders to support the new ramps.
(Illinois Tollway photo) The $340 million Illinois Tollway project will provide direct access into and out of one of the nation’s busiest airports.
(Illinois Tollway photo)
 The undertaking calls for construction of 3 mi. of I-490 Tollway mainline roadway, as well as 16 ramps and 15 bridges to deliver full mobility on the west side of the airport.
(Illinois Tollway photo)
 Dunnet Bay Construction is the prime contractor for the work currently being performed on the western portion of the interchange.
(Illinois Tollway photo)
 The four flyover ramp bridges will include 24 concrete piers and 24 steel girders to support the new ramps, with a total length of 3,800 ft.
(Illinois Tollway photo)
 The interchange is primarily being built in Bensenville and the DuPage County portion of Elk Grove Village.
(Illinois Tollway photo)

In Illinois, construction continues on a critical project that will link the north and south legs of the new I-490 Tollway with the Illinois Route 390 Tollway and provide access to York Road and Irving Park Road. The $340 million project also will provide direct access into and out of one of the nation's busiest airports.

"The new interchange will significantly improve travel and enhance mobility throughout the adjoining communities," said Manar Nashif, Illinois Tollway chief engineering officer. "Drivers will be able to use the interchange to access the northern leg of I-490 to reach the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway [I-90] or take the southern segment of I-490 to reach the Tri-State Tollway [I-294].

"This project will have a powerful, positive impact on the Chicago area and for local drivers because it will improve travel efficiency, create opportunities for jobs and economic development, reduce congestion and improve access to O'Hare Airport."

The interchange, which is primarily being built in Bensenville and the DuPage County portion of Elk Grove Village, will allow drivers to enter the airport from the western side.

"Regional and long-distance traffic also will be able to easily bypass a portion of the Central Tri-State Tollway by taking I-490 around the western edge of O'Hare to more easily access I-90 or reach businesses, warehouses and logistics centers in the western suburbs," said Nashif.

Overseen by the Illinois Tollway, the undertaking calls for construction of 3 mi. of I-490 Tollway mainline roadway, as well as 16 ramps and 15 bridges to deliver full mobility on the west side of the airport.

"The Tollway has a detailed timetable for this project and worked through the winter, when conditions permitted, to stay on schedule," said Nashif. "The interchange also is a vital portion of the larger I-490 Tollway project, and the Tollway is working to complete all the different elements of this project in the proper order to maximize efficiency and ensure the work stays within budget."

The Illinois Route 390 Tollway is currently used by motorists traveling along the 10-mi. stretch between Hanover Park and Bensenville. It provides access to various commercial, residential and industrial properties.

Because the interchange is not yet open to drivers, there will be no adverse impacts to Tollway customers; however, to complete the construction of the future bridge over South Thorndale Avenue, short-term overnight detours of South Frontage Road are required.

Nashif noted that work on the interchange officially began in late 2017, after the eastern segment of the Illinois Route 390 Tollway opened. Monitoring progress on the ongoing project is rewarding for everyone involved, according to Nashif.

"Constructing this interchange is an exciting project for the Illinois Tollway, because it's another key piece of our $3.4 billion Elgin O'Hare Western Access Project, which has been designated a project of national and regional significance, because of its scope and impact.

"The I-490/Illinois Route 390 Tollway Interchange will benefit drivers from across the region because it unlocks new western access to O'Hare Airport and links two new, all-electronic tollways that will improve accessibility to the communities west of the airport."

Dunnet Bay Construction is the prime contractor for the work currently being performed on the western portion of the interchange. The company, with a wide range of experience in carrying out heavy roadway construction, has worked successfully on related projects.

"The biggest challenge will be completing the work adjacent to O'Hare Airport, as well as over and around two Class I Railroads," said Nashif. "The remaining work at the interchange will include erection of large, curved girders for the six bridges that will span York Road, as well as the Canadian Pacific Railway and Union Pacific Railroad. The Tollway is undertaking a significant effort to coordinate the work with all stakeholders to minimize the operational impacts to the airport as well as the railroads."

As for work taking place at the I-490/IL-390 interchange site, this year the Tollway plans to complete construction on the portion of the interchange located west of York Road. The work will include construction of ramp pavements, a bridge of South Thorndale Avenue and the western abutments of the half-dozen bridges that will ultimately provide access to northbound and southbound I-490 and ultimately into the west side of O'Hare airport.

Construction also will continue on new ramps connecting the interchange to York Road and to Thorndale Avenue to provide improved access from I-490 and the Illinois Route 390 Tollway to nearby industrial and commercial areas.

Construction of the portion of the interchange east of Illinois Route 83 to west of York Road has been completed. In addition, the construction of abutments on the west side of York Road to support new bridges that will carry traffic across York Road and into O'Hare Airport also is substantially finished. The remaining work for the portion of the interchange west of York Road is ongoing.

The major work remaining includes completing ramps and bridges over York Road, as well as the Canadian Pacific Railway and Union Pacific Railroad, along with adjacent I-490 mainline pavement on the western boundary of O'Hare Airport.

"Contractors on this project will be using a variety of heavy equipment," said Nashif, "including graders and bulldozers, as well as more specialized equipment, including large cranes, concrete pumps and bridge deck finishing machines."

The Tollway has developed an expanded design for construction of the interchange to provide direct access into and out of airport property, with three lanes entering and three lanes exiting the west side of the airport.

The four flyover ramp bridges will include 24 concrete piers and 24 steel girders to support the new ramps, with a total length of 3,800 ft. Bridge decks will be 50 ft. above grade at their highest points. In addition, the two ramp bridges connecting to the west side of the airport will both total 1,900 ft. in length, with 17 steel girders to support the new ramps.

Regarding transport/placement of the 17 steel girders, the beams for the six structures will range from 4 to 8 ft. in height. Total weight of structural steel for each of the six bridges ranges from two million to 4 million lbs.

Work on the project is approximately 30 percent complete. Weather conditions haven't disrupted or slowed construction, which remains on schedule to be finished in 2026. Milder temperatures and lack of snow so far allowed some work to continue this winter.

The project is being coordinated with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Department of Aviation, Chicago Terminal Railroad, Canadian Pacific Railway, the Federal Aviation Administration, DuPage County, as well as local fire and police departments.

"It's rewarding and humbling to know this project will help provide easier, safer commutes for so many drivers for decades to come," said Nashif. "We're pleased this interchange will link two new tollways and provide much better access to our system to commercial traffic from businesses in nearby communities. We're also thrilled to be creating a new way for travelers to more easily reach O'Hare Airport." CEG




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