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$97.5M Rehab Improves Traffic Circulation on Chicago Artery

Tue June 05, 2001 - Midwest Edition
Cindy Ladage

Drivers who travel near Chicago, IL, and survive the traffic merges from the East and West I-88 toll way, the ramps off of the Eisenhower I-294 Expressway and Rt. 38 on Roosevelt Road, have witnessed gridlock at its worst. With more than 165,000 vehicles passing through this narrow Northern Illinois bottleneck, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) estimates there is congestion approximately 14 hours of the day.

Relief however is on the way. As part of Gov. George Ryan’s Illinois First Project, this $97.5-million project will widen Roosevelt and Mannheim roads, easing traffic delays.

Bruce Dinkheller, IDOT’s engineer of Project Implementation, estimates that a one-mile trip from York Road Toll Plaza on the East West tollway to the Eisenhower can take between 20 to 30 minutes. Once the project is completed, if the roads are clear, Dinkheller said this trip could take as little as three to four minutes.

Dinkheller explained that this project consists of several contracts varying from building demolition to actual construction on the expressway. The project began in the year 2000 with work off the freeway. “Our ultimate goal was to alleviate congestion on I-290. The bridge crossing over the expressway had to be lengthened, and similarly the frontage roads had to be moved back 60 to 100 feet,” he said.

Pushing back frontage roads is not an easy task. Dinkheller added, “This was part of the land acquisition process. We purchased buildings and tore them down. The building’s demolition contract was low in monetary value, but critical to the project.”

The frontage road was pushed back for approximately two miles along the north and south lanes of the expressway from Mannheim Road to Wolf Road. This construction provided room for work to continue on the expressway in 2001. Dinkheller said about $58 million worth of construction took place during the year 2000.

Walsh Construction of Chicago, was the contractor in charge of the work on the frontage roads, as well as the bridge work. Where Mannheim Road crosses I-290, the bridge was lengthened to accommodate the additional lanes that will be constructed this year. This $15.5-million contract included widening the bridge over the Eisenhower Expressway from two lanes to three in each direction.

To accommodate ever increasing traffic on Roosevelt Road, which runs parallel, this road was reconstructed. “It was basically removed and rebuilt under traffic,” Dinkheller noted.

Traffic was shifted to a temporary pavement while construction continued. This was done with “stage construction” techniques. The contractor for this project was Ganna Construction out of Itasca, IL. The project cost was $13.5 million.

While Walsh Construction was working on bridge work at Mannheim Road during the 2000 year construction phrase of the project, F.H. Paschen & Nielsen Co. was working on another bridge reconstruction which is expected to be completed in 2001. The companies are reconstructing two parallel bridges. The first is located at Darmstadt Road which crosses over the I-88 ramp to I-290, and the second is the Chicago Central Pacific railroad bridge at that same location. The railroad bridge reconstruction is an interesting project. It involves building the bridge at a location approximately 50 ft. away then rolling it in and setting it in place.

During 2001, one of the biggest construction challenges is completing the “Collector Distributor Roadway,” where all the ramps enter and exit the expressway. This is the area that has been cited as causing the main congestion problem. “We will build a side road to merge later that runs parallel along the way to collect traffic then merge onto the expressway in one location. This help will reduce congestion immensely,” Dinkheller explained.

Another rather controversial change is the upcoming ramp between Roosevelt Road and the “Collector Distributor.”

“We will have gates that open automatically. Gates will close the inbound ramp when congestion increases on I-290. The motorists will have to use Roosevelt Road or take an alternative route,” he said.

He added that this system was being met with mixed reviews. The goal of the overall project however is obviously well received, to ease congestion and traffic delays. Dinkheller emphasized that this project would not be possible without Gov. Ryan’s commitment and the Illinois First Project.

The Hillside Bottleneck project is expected to be completed by early 2002. When this two-year construction overhaul comes to an end, traffic should flow more freely allowing ease in traffic back-ups in Northern Illinois.

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