Rebuilding Illinois continues with completed projects

New projects planned for 2023
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Photo credit: John Hill/Pexels

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), under the leadership of Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman, continued to make history in 2022, delivering transformational projects across the state that will improve safety, enhance quality of life, and create economic opportunity across multiple modes of transportation for generations to come.

As of Sept. 30, Rebuild Illinois has made $9.6 billion in improvements statewide on 4,546 miles of highway, 422 bridges, and 645 additional safety improvements, ranging from routine maintenance projects to extensive interstate and bridge reconstructions.

“At its very core, the Rebuild Illinois Capital Plan is an investment in our future—one that is economically prosperous and environmentally sustainable with the promise of opportunity at every turn,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Since I signed our historic, bipartisan infrastructure plan into law over three years ago, we have already completed more than 4,500 miles of highway renovations, 422 bridge repairs, and hundreds of additional safety improvements—all while creating and supporting thousands of jobs. Planes, trains, automobiles, and barges, too—we are transforming and revitalizing every mode of transportation in every corner of our state to build a modernized Illinois that works for everyone.”

“Rejuvenating and shoring up our state’s infrastructure is about the important task of successfully fixing roads, bridges, waterways and more. It is also about people and quality of life,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “Rebuild Illinois is creating jobs, connecting diverse communities, and providing opportunities for entrepreneurship. This historic, bipartisan program continues to help make Illinois one of the best states in the nation to live.”

“Thanks to the leadership and vision of Governor Pritzker, the investments and work done by IDOT in 2022 solidified our status as the transportation hub of North America,” said Secretary Osman. “Our success is truly a team effort. We could not have had another successful year without the support of our partners as well as the input and understanding of the public. We look forward to an even better year in 2023.”

The past year marked the completion of the third full year of Gov. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan, the historic, bipartisan capital program that is investing $44.8 billion into the state’s infrastructure over six years, with $33.2 billion identified for transportation. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest capital program in state history but the first that touches all modes of Illinois transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.

Highways and bridges

One of the biggest, most complex projects in state history was declared substantially complete when all lanes and ramps on the new, improved Jane Byrne Interchange opened this month. The $806 million project revamped the junction of Interstate 90/94, Interstate 290 and Ida B. Wells Drive in Chicago with several capacity and safety improvements, as well as enhanced access to bike, pedestrian, and transit options.

A new Interstate 57/74 interchange is taking shape in Champaign-Urbana as the $216.8 million Rebuild Illinois cornerstone focuses on building two flyover bridges central to the project. With anticipated completion in 2025, the updates will modernize an outdated cloverleaf interchange, while improving safety and mobility at a major freight juncture.

Work is moving forward on the $167 million eastbound McClugage Bridge replacement in Peoria, highlighted by a 650-foot-long, 130-foot-tall arch that will be moved by crane into its final position next summer. This bridge is anticipated to open in early 2024.

Federal approval was received in 2022 on another major piece of Rebuild Illinois: the $1.2 billion reconstruction of 16 miles of Interstate 80 in Will County. While the replacement of bridges east of the Des Plaines River continues, the section from Ridge Road to the DuPage River will be under construction in 2023.

Also in Will County, the state’s fourth diverging-diamond interchange opened at Weber Road and Interstate 55 in November. By routing vehicles to the opposite side of Weber Road and eliminating left turns across traffic, the design helps decrease crashes and improve pedestrian and bicycle access across I-55.

A major investment in Interstate 57 unfolded this construction season, as 38 miles of roads and bridges in Cook, Will, Kankakee, Iroquois, and Ford counties were improved. In southern Illinois, work included replacing bridges in Jefferson County and adding lanes in Franklin County. The total combined cost is $477.2 million, with the ongoing effort to make I-57 six lanes from Interstate 24 south of Marion to Mt. Vernon a focal point.

The resurfacing of the entire length of I-24 in Illinois passed a milestone with the completion of a $28 million pavement patching, resurfacing and bridge repair on the two miles approaching the Ohio River this fall.

The state of rail

In October, Gov. Pritzker broke ground on the Forest Hill Flyover and 71st Street grade separation, part of the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project to help eliminate the most congested rail bottleneck in the Chicago area – the largest piece of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program.

Another CREATE project advanced in 2022, with IDOT receiving a $70 million federal grant for the Ogden Junction. The project will rehabilitate, replace, remove, and upgrade nearly two miles of track, signaling and viaduct structures, as well as build 10,000 feet of new track.

In the Metro East area, a $10.1 million project to modernize rail operations, improve safety and enhance the mobility of goods, people and services was declared finished in October with the replacement of the Lenox Tower. The project, a joint federal and state effort with several railroads, reconfigured an outdated network of tracks and signals while modernizing operations.

The past year saw a new schedule implemented for Amtrak Lincoln Service trains, reflecting 90 mph speeds as a result of improvements made along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. Work continues toward the ultimate goal of increasing speeds to 110 mph in 2023. New Siemens Venture passenger rail cars entered service in early 2022 in Illinois and other Midwest states, with continued delivery and rollout of more Venture cars to follow in 2023.

Multimodalism at work

 Downstate transit providers were awarded nearly $111 million through a competitive application process via Rebuild Illinois to build bus shelters, stations, and maintenance facilities that will expand and improve service, provide more transportation options in communities, and enhance quality of life.

All told, Rebuild Illinois provides $4.5 billion to improve transit service throughout Illinois, the most spent on transit in any state capital program since 1968.

Plans to establish a new inland port in Cairo were furthered with the release of $3.4 million through Rebuild Illinois, part of a more than $40 million commitment to the Alexander Cairo Port District to help complete environmental requirements and studies for the project, one of the largest investments in southern Illinois in decades.

In addition, $108 million through the capital program was invested in 12 public ports for projects that advance the Illinois Marine Transportation System Plan, which prioritizes asset management performance-based decisions and improvements that benefit disadvantaged or economically distressed areas.

Onward and upward

In August, IDOT released the Illinois Aviation System Plan, identifying short- and long-term needs and goals of the state’s airports, marking the first comprehensive study of its kind in more than 25 years. Using IDOT’s Long-Range Transportation Plan as a guide, the Illinois Aviation System Plan analyzed 85 public-use airport facilities, looking at ways to support the local economy, improve quality of life, and boost mobility.

In November, IDOT celebrated the opening of a new air traffic control tower at Lewis University Airport, an $8 million project supported by $6 million from Rebuild Illinois.

Working with our partners

Governor Pritzker and IDOT announced the sixth and final round of $250 million in Rebuild Illinois grants to advance municipal, township, and county projects across the state. In all, $1.5 billion has been distributed by IDOT to address local transportation needs in 2,856 communities, municipalities, and townships.

The Safe Routes to School program provided $12.3 million in grants to 57 projects selected from 102 applications submitted by municipalities and schools across the state. Administered by IDOT using federal funds, Safe Routes to School supports projects and activities that improve safety and encourage active transportation options in areas around elementary and middle schools.

The Today’s Challenge Tomorrow’s Reward conference resumed in May after a hiatus due to the COVID 19 pandemic. The conference focuses on providing educational and skill-building workshops, lessons on best practices and networking opportunities for firms in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program and contractors wanting to do business with IDOT.

The department also took the first steps to launching a new disparity study, a rigorous process that will take place throughout 2023 to help establish new overall goals for the DBE program.

In 2022, IDOT’s Highway Construction Careers Training Program (HCCTP) had 196 graduates. The program, a collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration, is implemented through intergovernmental agreements with community colleges throughout the state. Its goal is to increase access to highway construction jobs for minorities, women, and disadvantaged individuals. The HCCTP program encourages participants to be life-long learners, while providing opportunities for further education and assistance to gain employment in Illinois’ highway construction industry.

Innovative initiatives

Thirteen of 34 projects in the multiyear program were prioritized using Data-Driven Decisions, a tool that determines investment programming choices for projects that add capacity. The tool will enhance transparency and equity in the project-selection process.

In June, Governor Pritzker signed into law the implementation of design-build project delivery, an efficient, alternative method for completing infrastructure improvements. The Innovations for Transportation Infrastructure Act authorizes IDOT to consider utilizing the design-build delivery method on highway projects that meet certain conditions.

In the fall, IDOT received federal approval for a statewide Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan, which identifies charging gaps along the highway system as well as in rural areas, cities, towns, and neighborhoods. A total of $148 million in federal funding over the next five years will help build out a network of public EV charging stations across the state.

Recognition

The Interstate 74 bridge over the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities received several honors after opening a year ago. It was named a Top 12 finalist in the America’s Transportation Awards for Project of the Year from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Other prizes collected during the year include: The Structural Engineering Excellence Award from the National Council of Structural Engineers Association and inclusion as a Top 10 bridge in Roads & Bridges magazine.

IDOT received the American Council of Engineering Companies and the National Society of Professional Engineers 2022 Qualifications-Based Selection Award for the State or Local Government Sector. The award recognizes organizations that promote and make exemplary use of QBS methods to procure the professional services of consulting engineers at the federal, state or, local level.

Region 1 Engineer Jose Rios received the WTS Recognition Honorable Ray LaHood Award from Women’s Transportation Seminar International for his efforts to promote the advancement of women and minorities and help elevate the reputation of professionals in the transportation industry.

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