Dan Ryan reconstruction costs could exceed $1 billion

News Chicago Tribune September 19, 2006
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The final tab for the Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction project in Chicago could exceed over $1 billion, almost twice the original estimate, and possibly resulting in a diversion of funds that affects other road projects in the state, according to a recently published report.

Rising costs for labor and materials are being blamed for the higher price tag, the Chicago Tribune reported, citing an analysis of state contracts and budget documents. A decision to do additional work that was not disclosed to the public also has contributed to the increased costs.

Officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) acknowledged that the Dan Ryan project could end up costing more than $1 billion.

"Yes, the inflation in cost is huge and upsets us very much," Diane O'Keefe, IDOT deputy director of highways told the newspaper.

So far, about $800 million has been spent on construction, design, engineering, land acquisition and other costs, O'Keefe said. The entire project originally was estimated to cost roughly $550 million.

A website tracking the project's progress and media advisories, including one released last week, list the projects cost at $600 million, the Chicago Tribune reported.

O'Keefe said the officials have considered disclosing the increased costs in the past, but timing was not right.

"At one point we did look at the fact, hey, maybe we should say this is an over $700 million construction at this point. Unfortunately, it was right when were ready to close down the express lanes. We said, 'Is this the time to tell people, or do we want the focus on getting people off the expressway?"

The rising costs come at a time when transportation spending across the state is on the decline, according to the Tribune. There also are questions about how the state will generate the matching funds needed to compete for federal road-building and transit funds. Work on the 11-mile Dan Ryan Expressway began in April. When the project is done, the rebuilt roadway will have new lanes, an improved surface and rehabbed access ramps.

Traffic planers have said they hope the changes will reduce chronic congestion on a road that handles 320,000 vehicles a day, more than twice the number it was designed for 45 years ago.

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