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Local News

Fixing I-80 isn't easy

JOLIET – Making Interstate 80 easier to drive is a complicated process.

Take the Chicago Street interchange, a trouble spot that many local leaders consider the one feature along I-80 most in need of fixing.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is looking at what to do with the interchange and has come up with several ideas.

“We’ve looked at eight different alternatives. We’re down to four,” said Steve Schilke, IDOT’s project manager for the 16-mile stretch of I-80 that runs from US 30 in New Lenox to Ridge Road in Minooka.

Schilke was with an IDOT team answering questions last week at a public open house on the I-80 project at Joliet Junior College.

The team even included Spanish language translators to answer questions from Joliet residents – particularly those who might be directly affected by state acquisition of land to make room for a new Chicago Street interchange and new Des Plaines River bridge.

The state has three possible locations for a new Des Plaines River bridge.

“We’re trying to get input on that tonight,” Schilke said, which is why IDOT brought Spanish language translators. Notices of the open house were mailed to residents and businesses potentially affected by the bridge relocation.

The bridge would have to be replaced, not widened, Schilke explained, because it’s a truss bridge. It can’t simply be widened. And it can’t be rebuilt at the same location because that would require shutting down lanes, which would tie up traffic too much.

Every possible new location would straighten out the curves now leading up to the bridge although not completely, Schilke said. Where the bridge goes also depends on how many people or businesses it would displace.

The three bridge options are what IDOT calls a north alignment, which would displace 16 residences and two businesses; a refined north alignment, which displaces 28 homes and two businesses; and a south alignment, which displaces six homes and no businesses but creates potential construction problems by bringing the bridge closer to a Joliet water treatment plant and a landfill.

None of this is happening soon.

The entire project is estimated to cost between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. IDOT now has $110 million to work with and plans in the next five years to repair the Chicago Street bridge and replace bridges at Gardner Street, Richard Street, Rowell Avenue and Hickory Creek.

Long-term plans also include major reconfigurations of the interchanges at Interstate 55 and Center Street.

IDOT also plans to add lanes at five stretches of I-80 between I-55 and Briggs Street.

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