With the first 37 miles of the Interstate-90 rebuilding and widening project completed in the west, workers have moved on to the eastern stretch encompassing Des Plaines, Illinois Tollway representatives announced at a recent town hall meeting.
That means Des Plaines residents soon will see renovated bridges and updated infrastructure.
Under a $2.5 billion plan that covers a 62-mile stretch from Rockford to O'Hare International Airport, I-90 is expected to be renovated by the end of 2016. The plan includes rebuilding and widening lanes, remodeling over-the-tollway bridges and improving interchanges and access at Lee Street and Elmhurst, Meacham, Roselle and Barrington roads and a few others.
Rocco Zucchero, the deputy chief of engineering for planning at Illinois Tollway, said the construction already has begun on Elmhurst Road Bridge and Lee Street Bridge in Des Plaines.
"The project is widening and reconstruction of I-90, but (as) part of it, we are also responsible for bridges that go over the tollway," Zucchero said. "It's the interchange, but we are also adding capacity on Elmhurst Road."
The future bridge at Elmhurst Road will carry northbound Elmhurst traffic over I-90. A new diverging diamond interchange will eliminate left turns in front of oncoming traffic.
The four-way intersection will allow people to use Elmhurst Road to get to homes and businesses to that area, said state Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines). "With this new ease of congestion, it will help with the ecology because people will be burning less fossil fuel in traffic and back-ups," he added.
Zucchero said that I-90 will be equipped with gantries -- bridge-type structures that will hold cameras, traffic sensors and weather stations and provide information about conditions on the road to drivers every half mile between Barrington Road and Kennedy Expressway.
"This is a state-of-the-art technology," Zucchero said. "It allows us to be as flexible as possible."
The overall project is expected to create some 11,500 additional jobs in the Chicago region, according to Illinois Tollway.
However, one recent result of the I-90 project was the closure of the Des Plaines Oasis in mid-March. Zucchero said although the nearby 7-Eleven convenience stores and fuel stations will remain open until about 2020, the over-the-head pavilion will be soon demolished to give way to the Elgin-O'Hare Western Access Project.
Another major element of the project is going to be Lee Street Bridge, he said. That project, expected to be completed a year from now, involves rebuilding the two existing ramps allowing access to and from the east.
Zucchero said the Illinois Tollway is collaborating with the city of Des Plaines, village of Rosemont, city of Chicago, the Illinois Department of Aviation and the Federal Aviation Authority on the future design of Lee Street Bridge.
"We are trying to see if there is an opportunity for us to partner with these agencies to build a new eastbound exit ramp coming from Arlington Heights to get off at Lee Street," Zucchero said.
A longtime Des Plaines resident Richard Knutson said he was concerned about the Lee Street exit as it could become more troublesome for the drivers depending on the new configuration.
"I'm going to miss the (Oasis) gas stations but I think there is going to be a marked improvement on Tollway travel," he said.
"The bridges that go over the Tollway, we are going to be working on those in 2014," Zucchero added. "It's a very aggressive rollout of the entire project. By the end of 2016, we will have new lanes, added capacity to Elmhurst (Road), opportunities for new access at Lee Street."