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Tri-State Tollway Project Connects Communities in Illinois

Tue April 11, 2023 - Midwest Edition #8
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent


Lorig Construction Company, the lowest qualified bidder, serves as the prime contractor, having worked on multiple Tollway projects.
(Illinois Tollway photo)
Lorig Construction Company, the lowest qualified bidder, serves as the prime contractor, having worked on multiple Tollway projects. (Illinois Tollway photo)
Lorig Construction Company, the lowest qualified bidder, serves as the prime contractor, having worked on multiple Tollway projects.
(Illinois Tollway photo) Crews in Justice, Ill., are working diligently on the $39 million 88th/Cork Avenue Interchange project.
(Illinois Tollway photo) Work began in 2022 and should be finished by the end of 2024.
(Illinois Tollway photo) The undertaking will create new access to the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), providing nearby communities with a local connection to the Chicago area’s transportation network.
(Illinois Tollway photo) During construction, crews expect to move approximately 8,000 cu. yds. of dirt; 900 cu. yds. of concrete for pavement; and 1,000 cu. yds. of concrete for the bridge.
(Illinois Tollway photo)  Illinois Tollway photo
The project remains on schedule, although material supplies relating to shortages in various industries required additional coordination and planning.
(Illinois Tollway photo)

In an effort to better serve motorists, crews in Justice, Ill., are working diligently on the $39 million 88th/Cork Avenue Interchange project. The undertaking will create new access to the Tri-State Tollway (I-294), providing nearby communities with a local connection to the Chicago area's transportation network.

"This will improve the movement of freight and deliver economic benefits, including increased opportunities for local economic development," said Cassaundra Rouse, Illinois Tollway executive director.

"The interchange is one of the key projects in the state's competitive freight program, which is intended to create better transportation connections to more easily move raw materials and finished products around the region and across the state."

The new ramps connecting 88th/Cork Avenue to I-294 will improve local traffic circulation, while the ongoing widening and reconstruction of the Central Tri-State Tollway through the area will provide larger-scale congestion relief. The ongoing construction will also have a ripple effect.

"Local municipalities expect the interchange project to trigger new investment and redevelopment in several nearby suburbs because it will offer a more efficient route for freight-related and logistics companies to access I-294," said Rouse. "As an example, the project will dramatically improve truck access to a CSX Railroad Intermodal yard in Bedford Park, reducing out-of-direction travel and the impact of truck traffic on adjacent communities."

The area surrounding the new interchange currently is home to 85 freight- and logistics-related firms which employ about 22,000 workers. The new access is expected to encourage increased development of these type of businesses in the area, creating thousands of additional jobs.

Work began in 2022 and should be finished by the end of 2024. Rouse noted that the work is timed to coincide with the ongoing $4 billion Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294) Project, which is reconstructing and widening 22 mi. of I-294 from Rosemont at the north end of this segment to Oak Lawn at the south end.

Traffic impacts tied to the 88th/Cork Avenue Interchange project have been minimal. Drivers have reportedly responded well to lane shifts and other traffic changes.

Lorig Construction Company, the lowest qualified bidder, serves as the prime contractor, having worked on multiple Tollway projects. According to Manar Nashif, Illinois Tollway acting chief engineer, the project remains on schedule, although material supplies relating to shortages in various industries required additional coordination and planning. The issues created longer lead times than initially anticipated.

"Construction is going smoothly, and is currently about 10 to 15 percent complete," said Nashif.

"Work now is focused on bridge bearing replacement, steel erection, noise abatement wall installation and related grading.

"The noise abatement wall requires drilled shafts for the posts and grading around the new wall. The bridge substructure [pier and abutments] will be widened, so fill will need to be placed behind and adjacent to the widened substructure. New ramps will be built connecting Cork Avenue to I-294, so regrading the ramp locations is required."

Completed work includes bridge deck removal, bridge abutment and pier widening. The bridge will be widened to each side and involves expanding the existing pier and abutments and erecting new beams on both the east and west sides of the structure. The bridge deck is also being replaced.

During construction, crews expect to move approximately 8,000 cu. yds. of dirt; 900 cu. yds. of concrete for pavement; and 1,000 cu. yds. of concrete for the bridge. Workers are using cranes for the steel beam erection and noise abatement wall installation. Front end loaders and bulldozers are required for the necessary grading around the bridge widening and new noise abatement wall.

So far, the elements have not posed a problem.

Local road improvements built by Cook County will include reconstruction and widening of 88th/Cork Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue from south of 81st Street to north of Archer Road. New frontage roads will be constructed alongside 88th Avenue and 81st Street. Intersection improvements also will be needed at 88th Avenue and 81st Street and at the southbound I-294 entrance ramp.

Intersection improvements also will take place at Archer Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue and 79th Street. The improvements are necessary to accommodate the additional traffic from the new ramps.

Said Rouse, "Constructing this new interchange is an exciting project, because it will be a game changer for the Chicago Southland in terms of providing congestion relief and opening new access to local communities, creating new opportunities for economic development and job growth.

"Opening a new entryway to the village of Justice and other nearby communities will relieve traffic congestion and provide easier access to key destinations, including freight-related logistics businesses and SeatGeek Stadium, which hosts two professional soccer teams, the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars, as well as other concerts and events."

He added, "The Tollway expects this project to have a lasting impact on the economic success of the nearby communities by helping facilitate continued investment and redevelopment in the area. The interchange already is driving economic development in the area, including a newly completed 10,000-square-foot shopping center and construction of a new commercial retail building and new townhomes."

The local share of the project will be funded by Cook County and the village of Justice, who worked with the Illinois Tollway to receive a grant from the Illinois Competitive Freight Program for $13.44 million to be used for right-of-way acquisition for the new interchange. This work is part of the Tollway's 15-year, $14 billion capital program. CEG




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