New grass-roots I-80 Coalition seeks to speed up road improvements
Susan DeMar Lafferty
June 28, 2019
A new grass-roots effort, known as the I-80 Coalition, has been launched by the Will County Center for Economic Development to hasten needed improvements to I-80.
Several government, business, construction and labor officials met for the first time Thursday to lay the groundwork for a strategy to create and fund a public awareness and lobbying campaign to rev up the state’s “I-80 Project.”
Earlier this year, the Illinois Department of Transportation laid out its $1 billion plan to improve interchanges, repair bridges, and add auxiliary lanes on the interstate from Ridge Road in Minooka to U.S. 30 in New Lenox, but without funding, officials said it may take 15 to 20 years to complete.
“We don’t have time for that,” John Greuling, CED president and CEO, said.
“If IDOT does not get the money for 15 or 20 years, I wonder if it will ever get money. That’s not acceptable,” he said.
While the idea for this coalition has been talked about for “quite awhile,” it was further fueled by the county’s Community Friendly Freight Mobility Study that showed that 60 percent of the nation’s freight moves through Will County, much of that on this interstate, he said.
It also was prompted by recent discussions of safety issues on I-80 and the controversial NorthPoint Development in Elwood, Greuling said.
Some groups opposing NorthPoint’s 2,000 acre business park called for a moratorium on warehouses and distribution centers until the infrastructure could better handle the increasing volume of trucks.
Rather than stop economic development because of inadequate infrastructure, the coalition wants to accelerate the road work, Greuling said.
While hesitating to put a specific timeframe on the coalition’s efforts, he said he would like to see “a lot of progress by 2025.”
The CED created a similar group years ago to push for the I-355 extension from Bolingbrook to New Lenox, he said. But unlike building a new tollway, I-80 still has to operate as a highway during construction, which makes it more challenging, he said.
The next steps for the new coalition are to formalize as a non-profit organization, create a leadership team, and raise funds for its research and lobbying efforts, Greuling said.
The group will push for funds to improve this oft-congested highway, which may involve the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, he said.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about I-80 Project — we don’t just want to turn it into a tollway, but that will be part of the solution,” Greuling said, noting that both Will County and tollway officials have expressed an interest in tolling at least a segment of the interstate.
Greuling previously lobbied for the now-shelved Illiana toll road project as a bypass to I-80 through southern Will County, from I-55 to I-65 in Indiana, and still sees that as a potential — and quicker— solution to I-80, but it lacks the necessary political will, he said.
I-80 Coalition News
You're InvitedI-80 Ridge Road to US Route 30 Public Hearings Wed. Nov. 6, 2019Holiday Inn1472 Rock Creek BoulevardJoliet, IL 60431 Thurs. Nov. 7, 2019All Nation Church of GodCommunity Life Center503 Water StreetJoliet, IL 60436 Des Plaines Bridges News
Will County sees bonanza of infrastructure improvements
The state highway improvement plan for the next five years has something big in store for every part of Will County.
The Interstate 80 project that has captured the most attention promises improved bridges, new interchanges and other improvements through Joliet to the western end of the county.
IDOT Holds Informational Meetings For Residents That Will Be Affected By I-80 Reconfiguration IDOT has been meeting with residents who live around I-80 and the Des Plaines River during Phase 1 of the I-80 reconfiguration. IDOT met with resident this past June and...
Pritzker signed the capital bill and kicked off his day in East St. Louis, then continued on to the Lincoln Depot State Historic Site in Springfield and held another event in the afternoon within sight of the infamous Interstate 80 bridge across the Des Plaines River, set to be replaced as part of $1.2 billion in the plan earmarked for multiple bridge replacements and road upgrades in Joliet and Will County.
The new interchange is expected to be complete in late 2021.
NEW LENOX, IL — Traffic will be shifted for the reconstruction of the I-80 – US 30 interchange in New Lenox starting June 3. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, traffic will be shifted to the right on the eastbound lanes between Gougar and Francis roads during the overnight hours on Monday, weather permitting.
Included in a statewide construction plan that addresses hospitals, schools and roadways will be funding dedicated to repairs ensuring the long-term safety of the I-80 bridge spanning the Des Plaines River. The plan passed with support from State Senators Pat McGuire and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant.
Governor has proposed funding for aging infrastructure’s replacement
Inspectors this week are completing an annual examination of the Interstate 80 bridges that state officials say is done to assure they are safe to drive on, despite the need for repairs.
The city of Joliet and Mayor Bob O’Dekirk have announced the inclusion of $1.01 billion in I-80 reconstruction funds in the proposed $41.5 billion capital improvement plan proposed by Governor J.B. Pritzker. But there is nothing official from Springfield. Lawmakers still have until May 31st to approve the budget.