Gov. Rod Blagojevich launched the long-awaited groundbreaking of the North-South Tollway (I-355) South Extension, which will bring needed congestion relief, reduced travel times and jobs for residents of Will County, one of the fastest growing counties in Illinois.
Local residents, elected officials, county, union and business leaders were in attendance to see the Governor and other advocates for the new road ceremoniously dig into soil that will be removed to make way for the 12.5-mi. extension of I-355.
“This is an exciting day for Will County residents who will soon enjoy a better quality of life because they’ll have a more direct route to get around their towns and to their jobs without crawling down local roads,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We moved fast on this project to show Will County that the road is really going to be built this time.
“This new road is a key component of the Tollway’s Long-Range Plan that will boost the economy by not only reducing congestion but also creating jobs,” he added.
Local residents attended the event to express their support for this critical transportation link, which has been planned for more than 10 years but lacked funding before the Governor supported the Tollway’s Long-Range Plan, Open Roads for a Faster Future.
“I’ve lived in the south suburbs all my life, and traffic here has gotten progressively worse as people found this town to be an affordable place to live,” said Mary Faron, who is also a member of the Local Advisory Council on I-355 South. “This extension of I-355 will make it so much easier to travel to work and will free up local roads that are choked with traffic now. We’ve been waiting for years to get this road built, and I’m glad to see it’s finally happening.”
The extension of I-355 south is just one component of the Tollway’s Long-Range Plan to rebuild/restore about 90 percent of the Tollway system, widen major roads, and replace tollbooths on the mainline with Open Road Tolling.
“The goal of this new road and the entire Long-Range Plan is to reduce travel times in the Chicago area, which has been rated the third most congested in the nation,” said Jack Hartman, executive director of the Illinois Tollway. “Like the rest of our mainline, this new road will use Open Road Tolling, so we encourage Tollway drivers to get I-PASS now so they can save time and money on our existing system and on I-355 south when it is completed in 2007.”
Relief for Traffic-Weary Drivers
With the extension of I-355 from its current terminus at the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) to I-80, Will and southern Cook County residents will see significant reductions in travel time.
According to the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission, the South Extension will reduce travel times to suburban job centers by 12 to 14 minutes (20 percent) for an hour-long trip.
Additionally, travel times on Will County roads are expected to be shaved by 13 percent for an hour-long trip because the I-355 South Extension will ease the traffic load on local roads, which are often the only current option for residents to travel to and from the rest of the region.
Also, the entire region will benefit from mobility improvements that will more efficiently move goods, services and employees between I-55 and I-80 and beyond.
The I-355 South Extension will give Will County residents and businesses the access they need to jobs and markets in northern Illinois and will create new jobs vital to the economy.
The Will County Center for Economic Development estimates that the South Extension will lead to the creation of 150,000 manufacturing, distribution, white collar and service jobs by the year 2030. Local economic development projects, such as the Joliet Arsenal Redevelopment, are also expected to get a boost through more direct access to I-55.
The massive, $730 million road building project will also create about 36,000 construction jobs. This includes nearly 18,000 direct construction jobs and 18,000 jobs in industries that support the construction trades, according to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure 2003.
“The I-355 South Extension Project is bringing good-paying jobs to working families in Illinois,” said Dennis Gannon, president of Chicago Federation of Labor. “Our members are excited to be a part of this project and to play a critical role in the Long-Range Plan that will also rebuild and widen almost the entire Illinois Tollway.”
The I-355 South Extension construction project is expected to be completed by late 2007. The first contract on the project was awarded on Nov. 18, 2004, to T.J. Lambrecht Construction for earthmoving and grading.
Following the groundbreaking ceremony, crews and heavy equipment from Lambrecht will begin the initial work to clear the route south of the DesPlaines River, and prepare for major earthwork to begin next spring and continue through October 2005 on the south end of the project.
No impact to drivers is expected in the early stages of this project. The South Extension will look similar to the south end of the current North-South Tollway –– where the road is depressed and runs underneath existing local roads. This aids in the reduction of roadway noise. There will be an occasional need to move equipment over a crossroad. No equipment will be moved during heavy traffic.
About the Illinois Tollway
The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority maintains and operates 274 miles of interstate tollways in 12 counties in northern Illinois, including the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the North-South Tollway (I-355), the Northwest Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94, I-294, I-80/I-294).
For more information, visit www.chicagolandconstruction.com.
(This article appears courtesy of chicagolandconstruction.com.)