Three years of construction at the Interstate 55 interchange with Weber Road started last week.
The $68 million project may pose problems for motorists over the next few years.
But at an interchange where backups already are commonplace during rush hour, drivers may sustain themselves with visions of a more open Weber Road with better access to and from I-55 in the future.
“I think we all realize it will be a difficult process, but once it’s complete, it will be a major improvement,” Romeoville Mayor John Noak said.
Most of the interchange is in Romeoville, and it sits near the border of Romeoville and Bolingbrook.
The Illinois Department of Transportation is rebuilding the interchange into a diverging diamond, a design that IDOT said has been shown to reduce collisions and is expected to improve the flow of traffic to and from I-55.
The project also includes additional lanes and improved intersections on Weber Road from Romeo Road in Romeoville to Rodeo Drive in Bolingbrook.
“People get really focused on the interchange itself, but the interchange is about half of the project,” Noak said. “This is a much larger project than the interchange. That’s why it’s taking as long as it is.”
Noak said state and Will County officials have designed a construction plan aimed at keeping as much capacity as possible open for traffic during the course of the project.
IDOT on Thursday began work on temporary pavement, traffic signals and lighting to keep two lanes open in each direction on Weber Road until the end of the project.
The diverging diamond
The project also will include a second Weber Road bridge over I-55 to accommodate the diverging diamond interchange.
IDOT described the diverging diamond as a design that routes traffic to the opposite side of the road to eliminate left turns across traffic.
Diverging diamond interchanges now exist at only three locations in Illinois: Interstate 88 and Route 59 in Naperville, Interstate 90 and Elmhurst Road in Des Plaines, and Interstate 57 at The Hill Avenue in Marion.
Including Weber Road, diverging diamond locations are planned for seven additional locations. One is planned for I-55 at Route 129 in Wilmington.
According to IDOT, the design is used in areas with high rates of turns and traffic backups. It has been shown to reduce crashes by as much as 60 percent to 70 percent by reducing speeds and points of conflict where vehicles cross each other.
A long time coming
Local officials have sought a new interchange at Weber Road for years.
“For the last 15 years for sure,” said John Greuling, CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development.
Greuling said a plan was in place to fund a new Weber Road interchange before the recession.
“Then the economy collapsed,” he said.
The CED continued to push for the plan not only because of the traffic problems but because of the large industrial and logistics base that has developed in Bolingbrook and Romeoville around the Weber Road interchange.
“Unfortunately because of that,” Greuling said, “it’s also turned into one of the biggest bottlenecks in freight and passenger traffic in the county.”