Illinois Route 59, a main arterial route in western Will County, is undergoing major reconstruction along a 7-mi. (11.2 km) stretch between IL Rt. 126 and I-55. Scheduled improvements include widening of lanes from IL Rt. 126 to I-55; the addition of two lanes from IL Rt. 126 to I-55, increasing the roadway to four lanes (two in each direction) with left turn lanes at the major intersections; curb and gutter improvements; median installation; 10 mi. of new storm sewers and installation of new traffic signals and lighting.
Increased traffic volume in the Plainfield, Shorewood and Joliet communities, combined with the deteriorating condition of the existing road, made this project necessary. According to Mike Wiater, acting construction supervisor for South Cook and Will Counties, Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), it has been in the planning stage for many years.
An estimated 24,000 vehicles use this route daily, with the I-55 interchange serving approximately 11,000 vehicles per day. Those numbers are expected to rise, due to extensive development taking place throughout Will County in recent years, which has generated more traffic. Much of the area is zoned commercial or residential, so extensive development means there are several big box stores and subdivisions, adding to congestion.
Plainfield, Shorewood and Joliet are expected to continue to grow, but the area’s original pavement, laid in the 1930s or 1940s, isn’t able to handle the current volume of traffic safely or efficiently, let alone any increased amount.
“We got our money’s worth out of it,” Wiater said, but the time has come to reconstruct IL Rt. 59 to reduce congestion and provide a safer roadway.
He said the DOT understands the big impact on traffic and is working to minimize disruption and delays. Luckily, he added, they have received “great support and cooperation from the local municipalities.”
Five in One
The project consists of five contracts, totaling $88 million as let, with 80 percent of the funding from federal sources. Three of the contracts are roadway projects that include widening and reconstruction and a new interchange at I-55 and 59. The section of I-55 between Chicago and St. Louis was built as an alternate route for U.S. Highway 66. Built to 1960s standards, Wiater said, it’s in need of reconstruction. Longer merging distances and other safety improvements will be incorporated.
Two advance contracts also were included. D Construction, based in Coal City, is the general contractor on three of the five contracts; Chicago’s Walsh Construction is the GC for the other two. Utility work began in the fall of 2008, followed by road work in the spring of 2009.
Before any work could begin, Wiater said a substantial amount of right-of-way acquisition had to be worked out, except for the north end of the project in downtown Plainfield, where crews worked within the existing ROW, tight as it was.
Several major intersections along the route will be improved: Ft. Beggs Drive, Renwick Road, Caton Farm Road, Theodore Street and Black Road. In addition, a new interchange will be constructed where IL Rt. 59 joins I-55 in Shorewood at the south end of the project.
In additions to the improvements to IL Rt. 59, the bridge that carries IL Rt. 59 over the DuPage River north of Caton Farm Road will be reconstructed. Formerly a two-lane road with shoulders, Wiater indicated that when completed, it will feature two lanes in each direction, sidewalks on both sides and a barrier median.
“It will be roughly three times wider than it was.”
The existing bridge over the river and another bridge will be demolished, Wiater said. Crews have already constructed the first third of the river bridge outside of the existing bridge in order not to divert traffic.
“It’s stage construction to move traffic with no detour. The whole project is stage construction. The alternative is to close it all down.”
Instead, traffic is being shifted and crews are working next to traffic, with barricades and some barrier walls for protection.
The new roadway will be jointed concrete pavement, a typical, standard mix commonly used that is designed with microbubbles to allow space for expansion if water freezes.
It’s a pretty standard job, Wiater said, with no unusual equipment, materials or procedures and so far, no surprises and few challenges, other than the weather.
Time and Weather
Crews have been working a schedule of extended hours (10 a.m. to 12 p.m.) six days a week in an attempt to meet the anticipated completion date in the summer of 2010.
However, the schedule is somewhat weather-dependent.
“The challenge is the weather,” Wiater explained. “We had a cool, wet summer and we got historic amounts of rain in October.”
Rain is particularly problematic on this project because it involves a lot of earthwork.
“There’s earthwork along the whole project,” Wiater confirmed.
Most of it is borrow, brought in from off-site, for use on the I-55 interchange and in other spots.
“There’s no way to protect it if it’s wet.” Crews disc the soil to dry it out more quickly. Wiater joked that disking equipment is the only specific piece of equipment required in the contract.
“It’s DOT standard.”
Although weather has affected the schedule, Wiater believes they can still finish on time. He said crews will try to work through the winter if they can, focusing on underground sewer work.
Along most of the 7-mi. length, two new lanes are already complete, with traffic shifted to accommodate work on the other two lanes.
“We’ve already built the sewers, curb and gutter and poured the pavement.”
Next year, the plan calls for finishing the remaining lanes, median and landscaping.
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