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Key Cog in Multi-Billion Dollar Elgin O’Hare Project Opens

Three new interchange ramps on the $440 million I-290 interchange project on Illinois Route 390 opened recently, moving the massive undertaking one step closer to the finish.

Thu September 10, 2015 - Midwest Edition
Lori Tobias

Three new interchange ramps on the $440 million I-290 interchange project on Illinois Route 390 opened recently, moving the massive undertaking one step closer to the finish.

Work on the highway, formerly known as the Elgin O’Hare Expressway, has been ongoing since 2013 and expected to be completed in 2017. It is a key segment of the $3.4 billion Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project, and will include 17 ramps and 15 new bridges, as well as 17 mi. (27.3 km) of new road and 15 new or improved interchanges as part of an all-electronic toll road.

The interchange will relieve congestion along Illinois Route 390, while reducing travel times by up to 35 percent, said Paul Kovacs, Illinois Tollway chief engineer.

“The new interchange will accommodate an anticipated increase in traffic through the area,” Kovacs said. “Up to 240,000 vehicles currently travel through the Illinois Route 390/I-290 area — a number expected to increase to 340,000 vehicles daily by 2030. When completed, up to 127,000 vehicles per day are expected to use the interchange ramps, an increase of more than 53 percent from 83,000 vehicles that currently use the ramps daily.”

The new interchange ramps opened last month include a ramp connecting westbound I-290 to eastbound Illinois Route 390 and a another connecting eastbound I-290 to westbound Illinois Route 390. In addition, a new flyover ramp was completed connecting westbound I-290 to westbound Illinois Route 390. The flyover ramp bridge and ramps includes eight concrete piers with 6- to 8-ft. (1.8 to 2.4 m) diameter columns and 54 steel girders to support the new ramps. The length of the flyover ramp bridge is 2,100 ft. (640 m) with a bridge deck that will be 34 ft. (10.3 m) above grade at its highest point. In addition, construction of a new ramp connecting eastbound I-290 to eastbound Illinois Route 390 began earlier this summer. All traffic on Rohlwing Road is traveling on a new bridge built over Illinois Route 390. A new ramp will open in 2016 allowing westbound Illinois Route 390 traffic to exit at Rohlwing Road. A second ramp will open in 2017 allowing traffic from Rohlwing Road to access eastbound Illinois Route 390.

The project also will reconstruct Illinois Route 390 from Rohlwing Road to Prospect Avenue to provide three lanes in each direction. Frontage roads will be constructed on both sides of Illinois Route 390 between Meacham Road/Medinah Road and Illinois Route 53 to provide access to local traffic. East of I-290, a frontage road will connect Park Boulevard, Arlington Heights Road and Prospect Avenue.

A key challenge during construction is maintaining the current number of lanes to minimize traffic disruptions to residents, commuters and businesses access.

Temporary lanes and a staged construction schedule have kept lanes and access open. The timing of the traffic signals also have been adjusted as necessary to ease congestion by allowing more vehicles to move through the intersection. In addition, supplemental signing and message boards have been installed when necessary to guide motorists through the project area and to provide advance notice of changes in traffic operations, Kovacs said.

The Illinois Tollway also was required to coordinate with radio station WBBM to ensure work would not interrupt the tower signal.

While building the interchange, crews are using advanced materials, including high-performance concrete and stainless steel rebar in the bridge decks for the Illinois Route 390 bridges over I-290. The materials will improve the durability of the bridges and postpone future traffic disruptions that occur when the bridge decks are repaired, Kovacs said.

They also are constructing an acrylic noisewall on a ramp bridge. The acrylic barrier’s lighter weight will require less reinforcement required in the bridge structure to support the wall. After construction is complete, the performance of the wall, frequency of maintenance and feedback from motorists and adjacent residents will be analyzed to determine if the wall type can be proposed on other projects.

The interchange is being built with an array of construction gear, including large cranes, pile driving equipment, large earthmovers and paving equipment for asphalt and concrete. Among the various types of equipment being used for the construction of the interchange, the following represents a small sample size of equipment that has been deployed at the interchange:

• John Deere 450D backhoe excavator

• John Deere 850J dozer

• Link-Belt RTC 8090 rough terrain crane

• Manitowoc 999 crawler crane

• Manitowoc 14000 crawler crane

• Rexcon slipform paver

• Pileco D30-32 diesel pile hammer

The Elgin O’Hare Western Access Project is designated a “Project of National and Regional Significance” by federal transportation legislation because of its magnitude and its potential to dramatically improve mobility, increase freight connectivity and enhance the regional economy while improving access to O’Hare International Airport, Kovacs said.

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