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Mayor to help oversee $1.7 billion highway project

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar will have a hand in decisions on a $1.7 billion highway project.

Chicago Ridge Mayor Chuck Tokar has been selected to serve on the newly formed Central Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) Corridor Planning Council, which will have a voice in a $1.7 billion reconstruction project for the section of I-294 between 95th Street in Oak Lawn and Balmoral Avenue in Rosemont.

    Justice Mayor Kris Wasowicz was also named on July 23 to the 33-member advisory board, which is scheduled to meet for the first time at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 14, in Room 219 of Illinois Tollway headquarters, 2700 Ogden Ave., Downers Grove.

Tollway officials said in a press release that the advisory board will “provide public input and guidance” as a master plan is drawn up for the I-294 reconstruction project, part of Move Illinois, the Tollway’s 15-year, $12 billion capital program.

    “I was pleased and honored to be asked to serve on it by Palos Hills Mayor Jerry Bennett (president of the Southwest Suburban Conference of Mayors),” said Tokar, noting the close proximity of I-294 to his village. As of early last week, he did not have an agenda for the first meeting, but said he was looking forward to being at it.

    “The Central Tri-State Tollway plays a critical role in the Illinois Tollway system and the regional transportation network, so input from the public and the communities we serve will be an important part of our planning process,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov in a statement. “Working together, we have an opportunity to implement innovative solutions that address travel demand for decades to come while also helping to stimulate economic development and serving local communities’ needs.”

Nearly 22 miles long, the Central Tri-State Tollway Corridor is one of the busiest and most complex segments of the 286-mile Tollway system, serving up to 185,000 daily vehicles. In addition to being a main route to O’Hare International Airport, it connects five other interstates–the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), I-190, the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290) and the Stevenson Expressway (I-55).

    According to the Tollway Authority, the Move Illinois Program currently includes $1.7 billion for the Central Tri-State Tollway Project, with advance work tentatively set to begin as early as 2018 and reconstruction scheduled for 2020-2022. In addition to planning for roadway reconstruction, the master planning process will allow the Illinois Tollway to consider improvements to several major bridges and local interchanges, accommodations for commercial vehicles and transit, as well as explore the addition of active traffic management similar to the eastern segment of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) Rebuilding and Widening Project.

Tollway officials said the Corridor Planning Council is expected to help develop a common understanding of the issues and concerns that should be considered as the Illinois Tollway undertakes this reconstruction project.

 Therefore, in addition to mayors from Cook and DuPage counties, the Council membership will include railroad and trucking industry officials, tollway representatives, and leaders of business organizations, such as Donna Smith, executive director of the Bedford Park-Clearing Industrial Association.

    Move Illinois, the Illinois Tollway's 15-year, $12 billion capital program, is aimed at improving mobility, reducing congestion and pollution, and creating as many as 120,000 jobs in the Midwest.

    Other Move Illinois projects include rebuilding and widening the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), constructing a new interchange to connect I-294 to I-57, building a new, all-electronic Elgin O’Hare western access, and funding planning studies for other emerging projects.