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Illinois to Revamp 220-Mi. Major Economic Corridor

Sat December 27, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Lori Lovely

A 1989 Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) study titled “Lifelines to the Economy” identified areas losing economic development opportunities due to inadequate highway facilities. Included was U.S. Route 67 between Alton and the Quad Cities — a 220-mi. (354 km) stretch extending from Interstate 280 at Rock Island to I-270 south of Alton in west central Illinois. Designated as a “major economic arterial,” which is defined as “a federal and state route serving cities that were not directly connected by an interstate highway system,” U.S. 67 is predominantly two-lane, with multi-lane divided highway sections between Macomb and Monmouth, along a 24-mi. (38 km) bypass west of Jacksonville and along the Alton bypass (IL 255).

Because IDOT considers U.S. 67 a key regional corridor for the north-south movement of people and goods in and through west central Illinois, several sections of the corridor were placed on IDOT’s multi-year program for development into a multi-lane divided highway configuration after a 1990 corridor feasibility study for improvement of this route.

The ultimate goal of a four-lane high-type facility between Alton (metro St. Louis) and the Quad Cities is to enhance the regional transportation system and bring greater stability to the region’s economic bases. “The improvement between Jacksonville and Macomb is part of a larger plan to provide greater access for all of west central Illinois and to link this major arterial to the interstate systems,” explained John C. Negangard, project engineer for IDOT District Six. Research shows that high-type roadways (expressways and freeways) are critical threads in the economic fabric of a region in terms of movement of people and goods and are considered major criteria in the decision where to locate businesses that contribute to a viable local economy.

According to Negangard, when IDOT has a good portion of U.S. 67 upgraded to four lanes, it will make it a more efficient route than using I-55, I-155 and I-74 or U.S. 61 through Missouri and Iowa. “The new four lanes will provide western Illinois the opportunity for economic development and expansion. We expect traffic to increase substantially.”

By 1995, IDOT launched its Phase I Location/Design Study for improvement of the corridor between Jacksonville and Macomb. The study included a detailed evaluation of the corridor options for the proposed four-lane expressway between Jacksonville and Macomb, with two corridor options undergoing additional study. A preferred alignment for the proposed four-lane expressway was identified, based on the best combination of social, economic, environmental and engineering aspects of the project.

Eight years later, in 2003, engineering for location studies and an Environmental Impact Statement received design approval from the Federal Highway Administration. The new roadway will be constructed in several sections, with a 3.2-mi. (5.1 km) extension west of the Jacksonville bypass having been completed already. Negangard said the engineering schedule is typical for a project waiting to receive construction funding.

Crunching the Numbers

The total costs awarded to date to improve the two- and four-lane corridor total more than $737 million. Another $126.3 million has been budgeted for projects during the fiscal years 2009 to 2014, with $24.1 million of that earmarked for 2009.

Phase I tallied $5.2 million, with an additional cost of $4.9 million to acquire additional land. Although the recommended alignment closely follows the existing U.S. 67 alignment, except at bypasses around Industry, Rushville and Beardstown, additional land was necessary to accommodate wetland and natural area mitigation along the corridor.

The estimated unfunded cost to complete the four-lane sections in the U.S. 67 corridor from Macomb south to the Alton Bypass exceeds $1.7 billion. The unfunded cost of constructing 62 mi. (99.7 km) of four-lane highway from east of Macomb to west of Jacksonville — including the bridge at Beardstown — is estimated at somewhere between $768 and $844 million.

Negangard said they are still working on accurate cost estimates, but for now he expects the section containing the Beardstown bridge to be somewhere between $150 to $200 million, “depending on how soon we secure funds for the construction.” More accurate cost estimates should be available prior to the initiation of the next federal transportation bill. Engineering and plan preparation has already been funded, he notes, but construction has not been accounted for in the FY2009-FY2013 multi-year program. “We hope that it will be part of the next federal transportation bill, which will provide extra federal funds to the state.”

Phase II

Meanwhile, after the 5.3-mi. (8.5 km) section of U.S. 67 at Beardstown from the U.S. 67-IL 125 intersection south of the Illinois River north to Bluff Road received partial funding for Phase II design engineering, IDOT hired Chicago-based Teng & Associates, Inc. to provide design engineering. The scope of the work includes supplemental topographic surveys, hydraulic analysis, geometric refinements, bridge type study and final design and construction plans.

The proposed project includes construction of a new bridge across the river, a full interchange at IL 100/103 and joining the new expressway to the existing U.S. 67 near Bluff Road. The new roadway will terminate south of the bridge at a westerly extension of IL 125 with only the north half of the interchange constructed. The connection between the existing and the new U.S. 67 will be made via the IL 125 Extension. A new bridge will take the new U.S. 67 over the IL 125 Extension, with the southern half of the interchange being constructed as part of a future segment extending further south.

The existing bridge over the Illinois River carries an average of 7,200 vehicles per day, according to the state’s web site. It was last rehabilitated in 1985, with a 30-year anticipated design life before other major bridge repairs or reconstruction would be required. However, Negangard said the new bridge is part of the upgrade to make U.S. 67 a four-lane route between Alton and the Quad Cities.

The proposed alignment will begin two miles south of town and come north to Beardstown along the existing U.S. 67, but will turn northwest to avoid the Beardstown Marsh Natural Area. It will then skirt the town’s western boundary and cross the Illinois River on a new bridge downstream from the existing one. The road will parallel the existing highway in a northwesterly direction, crossing it near Bluff Ditch, about 2 mi. (3.2 km) north of the IL Route 100/103. The existing U.S. 67 bridge will be demolished after the new bridge is constructed and opened to the traffic.

By Design

Large river bridge crossings are complex structures facing numerous demands unique to each setting. In addition to carrying vehicular traffic, other demands placed on this bridge include accommodating recreational and commercial users of the river. Besides considering traffic volume, safety and budgetary constraints, IDOT had to weigh many factors to determine the type of bridge best suited to cross the Illinois River and Curry Lake.

The Citizens’ Advisory Committee was consulted in the selection process, identifying local priorities for the new river bridge and exploring architectural enhancement options for the bridge that seek to preserve and enhance the scenic, economic, historic and natural qualities of the project areas. Decisions for design enhancements include decorative concrete surface treatments; construction materials and textures; architectural sculpting of bridge elements such as columns, decorative parapet walls and open railings; upgraded light poles and accent lighting; color; articulated bridge support piers; preservation of the views to and from the bridge will ensure that the new bridge blends with its setting and landscaping along both approaches to the bridge.

Public input was an important element. Extensive opportunities were provided for public officials, community groups, interest groups and the general public and property owners to participate in the project development process. IDOT made a commitment to continue the public involvement through the next phase of engineering for this project by incorporating the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) approach in the design process. CSS process works as a partnership between IDOT and stakeholders to plan and design a cost-effective transportation project that fits into and reflects the project’s surroundings.

But plans demanded more than just public input. The U.S. Coast Guard must review and approve the design of new bridges across commercially navigated waterways. The Coast Guard’s final jurisdiction affected the decisions regarding the location of piers in the river, the length of clear spans between them and vertical clearance.

The girder approach spans south of the main arch will provide clearance for continued development of the barge facilities along the river bank. Because the new bridge will span part of Beardstown’s expanding barge loading and unloading facilities, ensuring unobstructed access in this area was crucial. Currently, private investors are developing plans to expand the port facility adjacent to the existing bridge at Beardstown for loading and unloading metal cargo containers from barges transporting goods up and down the river. The containers will then be distributed throughout the Midwest by trucks or railroad — an important part of the region’s economy targeted by the project. To the north, similar girder spans will carry U.S. 67 over Coal Creek Island and Curry Lake to the northern levee.

The existing three-span truss bridge, built in the 1950s, has two traffic lanes, with a 540-ft. (164 m) main span for navigation below, flanking spans of 420 ft. (128 m) on each side and 63 ft. (19.2 m) of vertical clearance. The new bridge will be constructed 200 ft. (61 m) downstream and also will carry two lanes of traffic, with full shoulders in both directions. The alignment of the navigation channel will be maintained, as well as the same vertical and horizontal clearances. Additional vertical and horizontal clearance requirements at the southern river bank were identified through meetings with the Citizens’ Advisory Committee.

Building Bridges

The state maintains many types of bridges over the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, such as truss, tied arch, cable-stayed box girder and plate girder. Each has advantages that suit specific conditions. Taking into consideration past experience, recent trends and site constraints, the design team narrowed the list of possible bridge types to three: arch, truss and cable-stayed. Besides differences in appearance, the bridge types vary in construction costs, ability to construct without disrupting river traffic, their treatment of the south bank area and long-term maintenance.

Detailed evaluation of the different types concluded that the existing truss bridge should be replaced with a series of girder spans and a 540-ft. (164.5 m) tied arch span over the main navigational channel. Criteria included cost, constructability, aesthetics and maintainability. Cost estimates for construction reach $97 million, which was the least expensive alternative of the five bridge designs considered. Various configurations of one-, two- and three-span trusses ranged from $99 to $104 million, with the two-span cable-stayed bridge the most expensive at $114 million.

With the selection settled, design engineering and preparation of construction bid plans and specifications began. Because of the amount of the work involved, construction will be split in to six separate contracts as follows:

• Grading Contract: drainage culverts and the embankment

• Sub-structure Contract: piers and abutments for the River Bridge

• Super-structure Contract: the deck level of the River Bridge

• Paving Contract: roadway pavements, guardrails and lighting

• Landscaping Contract: install landscaping

• Bridge Demolition Contract: demolish the existing River Bridge,

Plans and specifications for the first contract are expected to be ready by fall 2010, contracts #2 to #4 by fall 2011, and contract #6 by winter 2012. Because IDOT’s multi-year program includes funding only for the planning, engineering and land acquisition stages of the project, the construction funding for this project is not yet committed. A construction schedule cannot be established until money for the construction of the U.S. 67 improvement between IL 125 in Cass County and IL 100/103 in Schuyler County is allocated.

Despite funding delays, key structural features have been finalized, including the precise positioning of the piers, determination of the most appropriate foundation types, and the sizes of main steel members in the girder and tied arch spans. Construction limits for this segment of the expressway extend from just south of the proposed IL Route 125 interchange in Beardstown to Bluff Ditch 1.5 mi. (2.4 km) northwest of the Illinois River. The entire alignment through this area will be raised approximately 25 ft. (7.6 m) above the existing ground to keep the roadway above the 100-year flood level.

As it crosses the river, the alignment of the new highway is offset approximately 200 ft. (61 m) downstream of the existing bridge to maintain traffic on the existing bridge during construction of the new river bridge. Traffic along IL-100/103 and at the two ends of the project where the new route merges with the existing roadway will be maintained at all times by staging the construction and shifting the traffic patterns as the construction progresses.

Work will include placing approximately 4 million cu. yd. (3.1 million cu m) of embankment, constructing a 3,500-ft.-long (1,060 m) four-lane bridge across the river and the lake and construction of roadway for the expressway mainline, IL Route 125 extension and two interchanges. Work is anticipated to spread over three seasons.

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