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  • Megann Horstead

Newly released state capital bill gives IDOT added optimism to tackle I-80 improvements in Will Co.


The need to improve Interstate-80 has long been due, but Illinois Department of Transportation officials say they are more optimistic to tackle the project after learning of the funding designated for Will County in the State of Illinois’ Rebuild Illinois capital improvement plan.


“Up until a few months ago, this essentially was a concept and a plan, but now there’s a mechanism to make it happen,” said Guy Tridgell, director of the office of communications for IDOT. “With the passage of the capital bill, now there’s a future for this project where there really wasn’t one before.”


IDOT hosted the first of two public hearing open houses on Wednesday to give people the opportunity to learn more about the planned improvements to I-80 and provide input.


The improvements to I-80 are estimated to cost $1.2 billion and is included in the department’s fiscal year 2020-2025 program and is funded by the Rebuild Illinois capital program, officials said.


IDOT’s focus area is the 16 miles of the interstate located in Will County, beginning at Ridge Road to the west and ending at U.S. Route 30 to the east.


Topics addressed during the public hearing open houses ranged anywhere from preferred alternative solutions and anticipated environmental impacts to potential mitigation measures.


As motorists travel through the city of Joliet and eastward there are a number of planned improvements for I-80. Those include replacing the bridge at Rock Run Creek, widening the Houbolt Road bridge, constructing two-plus lanes plus auxiliary improvements between Interstate-55 and Houbolt Road, replacing the bridge at Joliet Junction Trail and more.

Shorewood resident Donna Leonard was among those seeking information at the public hearing open house.


“For a while, I thought we made progress, but the construction of the mall near I-55 didn’t occur,” she said. “I’m wondering what happened to those plans. They were waiting for traffic studies. I wanted to see how it impacts traffic because I’m really concerned for the safety in the area of I-80 and I-55. You hear about tragedies and fatalities so often.”


Leonard said there’s a lot to takeaway from dropping for the public hearing open house.


“I live in the area,” she said. “I’m a real estate agent. It’s my job to know what’s going on to help inform my clients.”


Joliet resident Joe Horvat said that coming to the public hearing open house to learn more about the planned improvements was helpful.


“It concerns me,” he said. “I live near I-80. I’ve lived there all my life. I was worried they’d widen the road and I’d be displaced, but it looks like they’re going to widen inward and create a noise wall.


“It wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Horvat continued. “The traffic is getting heavier and heavier.”


Horvat said I-80 is a vital part of his daily commute in and around the city.


“I use it everyday,” he said. “I don’t have a choice. I like my location because I can get right on.”


Officials are nearing the completion of the phase 1 planning process with an end date planned for early 2020. After which, federal approval to proceed with phase 2 will be needed.


Written comments on the project’s environmental assessment are due Dec. 2 and can be submitted by visiting the project website at I-80Will.com or mailing it to Illinois Department of Transportation- District 1, Attn: Jessica Feliciano, Bureau of Programming, 201 W. Center Court, Schaumburg, IL 60196-1096.