• Megann Horstead

IDOT identifies possible alternatives to address I-80 concerns


As part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s plan to reconstruct Interstate 80, a roadway that includes Ridge Road to the west and ends at Route 30 to the east, a public meeting was held Jan. 31 to seek the public’s feedback on the range of potential alternatives they’ve identified to address concerns for transportation infrastructure.

The study area encompasses a number of communities across Kendall, Grundy and Will counties, including the Village of New Lenox.

IDOT officials have developed three categories of alternatives to receive further evaluation, with possible opportunities for corridor-wide reconstruction, reconstruction of bridges or reconstruction of interchanges.

The first option was studied in three different ways, one of which creates additional lanes along the entire corridor and is no longer being considered due to funding constraints. Two other alternatives involve replacing pavement and adding or extending auxiliary lanes.

The second option takes a look at bridge widening, major repairs and rehabilitation, as well as additional bridge replacements. As part of this plan, IDOT officials are evaluating the lowering of the Joliet Junction Trail Bridge, which crosses over a multi-use trail. In a related development, the Des Plaines River Bridge, which is a truss bridge and cannot be widened to add lanes or shoulders the way it is currently configured, would require a new alignment. There are several options that could help by enabling a shift to the north, to the south or to the refined north. The latter avoids impacts to wetlands and requires a greater number of residential and commercial relocations, whereas the other two configurations do not.

A third possibility involves improvements to interchanges. Under this plan, reconfigurations are proposed at Interstate 80 and Interstate 55, Interstate 80 and Center Street, and Interstate 80 and Chicago Street.

“New Lenox area, we have what’s shovel-ready but is currently not in the program,” said Steve Schilke, project manager for IDOT. “We have a previous phase I of preliminary engineering that’s advanced through phase II, so it’s currently shovel-ready for the interchange at U.S. [Route] 30. Between U.S. [Route] 30 to Briggs, we are showing improvements to Briggs Street. [The] Briggs Street bridge, itself, is in the program, but not the ramps.”

It is in this area that IDOT is also looking into the reconstruction of pavement, setup of curves and correction of super-elevation.

“Whether or not we have that [auxiliary] lane component at that time, that’ll be looked at that time,” Schilke said, noting that funding is not yet available to start making improvements. “Certainly, we want to address our bridge conditionings first, safety issues first, then we’ll start getting into capacity type of things.”

Schilke said the proposed improvements to Interstate 80 are anticipated to last through 2040, given the actual and projected growth in population and industrial and warehouse developments.

The meeting brought in a number of representatives for transportation organizations, state and municipal officials, residents and other community members, to learn more about the project and provide feedback.

“I’m interested in the project,” said Kristi Kijowski, of Shorewood. “I no longer travel I-80 as much. I commuted to the Joliet train station and back for four to five years. Getting on and off Chicago Street [to use] I-80 was unsafe. You’d have to merge two times. Every time I was gritting my teeth [at the thought of it.]”

When asked which of the three proposals she feels is most appropriate, Kijowski said it’s too early to say if the improvements would help.

“I felt I could have something to contribute,” she said. “I have experienced [concerns for safety.]”

Teresa Pope, of Joliet, was motivated to drop in for the meeting for a few reasons.

“[I came out] because I was reside in the area they’re talking about reconstructing between Center [Street] and Wheeler [Avenue],” she said. “[There’s] congestion. [From my house,] I can hear accidents, and I can feel the semis when they hit a bump. It’s affecting the structure of my house.”

Pope has lived in her current home for nearly 20 years and is a lifelong resident of Joliet.

“I was considering moving, if [the proposed improvements] won’t affect where I stay,” she said. “If not, I know what I need to work toward.”

IDOT’s study of the Interstate 80 corridor is anticipated to reach completion by the fall.

If unable to attend the meeting and interested in providing input, visit www.I-80Will.com or send written comments by U.S. mail to the Illinois Department of Transportation, Attn: Steven Schilke, Bureau of Programming, 201 W. Center Court, Schaumburg, IL 60196-1096.

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