Chicago's old post office on the west side of the Loop has always seemed to mark the exit from the City to the 'Burbs. Now the old landmark is one step closer to marking the start of a 30-mile construction project to refurbish the Eisenhower Expressway.
Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved the first phase of the Eisenhower Improvement Project. The Ike, also known as Interstate 290, is the six-decade old artery that brings 100,000 vehicles a day into Chicago from the west.
Plans for the $2.7 billion project call for widening and rebuilding Interstate 290 to four lanes in each direction, making the entire stretch of highway from the Loop to I-88 four lanes.
Two center lanes between Mannheim Road and Racine Avenue are to be converted into 'Hot 3+' lanes which would let carpool vehicles and buses drive free but other drivers would be charged a toll for access. The toll cost would vary according to traffic density.
However, construction of the Eisenhower Improvement Project is dependent on overcoming some significant speed bumps first.
First, before any construction begins on I-290, IDOT officials say managed toll lanes must be installed on Interstate 55 between southwest suburban Bolingbrook and Chicago. That means the Illinois General Assembly needs to act on a proposed joint resolution that would allow the IDOT to pursue the I-55 toll lanes through a public-private partnership. To date, the Assembly has not acted.
Without the completed I-55 work or any public or private commitments to fund the I-290 project, no timeline has been established.