Construction on the four-year, $475 million Circle Interchange project in Chicago got under way this week. The project is expected to create thousands of construction jobs and improve the nation’s most congested interchange. The project will start with work on the Morgan Street Bridge and encompass the bridges, roadway and drainage systems for the Dan Ryan, Eisenhower and Kennedy Expressways and the Congress Parkway that make up the interchange.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn also has signed legislation to complete the third phase of the state’s record capital construction program. The program is part of Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and build a 21st century infrastructure system that will drive Illinois’ economy forward.
“The Circle Interchange reconstruction is the state’s biggest and one of our most important construction projects,” Quinn said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Not only will this endeavor create thousands of jobs for Illinois workers, the new Circle Interchange will help local businesses and industry move products, and drivers will reduce the time they spend in their cars each day. By making these critical improvements today, we will guarantee the interchange is a safe, efficient and modern transportation hub for generations to come.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) project will reconstruct the interchange at the heart of Chicago that links the I-90/94 (Dan Ryan Expressway) to the south, I-290 (Eisenhower Expressway) to the west, Congress Parkway to the east and I-90/94 (Kennedy Expressway) to the north. According to estimates by transportation planners, the improvements will reduce traffic delays by at least 50%, save drivers 5 million hours annually and the improved traffic flow will lead to a savings of 1.6 million gal of fuel per year.
“We are excited to begin work on this very important project, one that will keep our region and our economy moving,” IDOT Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. “More than 400,000 vehicles pass through the Circle Interchange each day, making it a vital regional and local hub for commuters, businesses and freight movement.”
The work includes providing a minimum of four lanes in each direction on I-90/94 at the I-290/Congress Parkway to correct a lane balance issue; two lanes on the “north-to-west” and “east-to north” ramps to improve safety and mobility; and local access lanes for both northbound and southbound I-90/94 to improve safety and mobility. In addition, the ramps will be reconfigured to provide safer and more efficient traffic flow. The new design incorporates aesthetic features and improves the multimodal transportation system of the surrounding street network with the inclusion of bike lanes, wider sidewalks and improved access to transit.
The Circle Interchange was constructed between 1958 and 1962, and has outlived its original design life. The Federal Highway Administration and the American Transportation Research Institute identified the Circle Interchange as the No. 1 bottleneck among highways crucial to the nation’s freight transportation system. Of the more than 400,000 vehicles that use the interchange each day, about 33,000 are trucks. The interchange experiences an average of 940 crashes per year.