Following approval today by a key planning group, Governor Pat Quinn has directed the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to accelerate a $420 million project that will reconstruct Chicago's famed Circle Interchange, improving traffic flow in the most congested interchange in the nation. Today's decision by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to include the project in the "GO TO 2040" long-term transportation plan allows IDOT to pursue federal funding for the landmark project that will create thousands of jobs. Today's announcement is part of the Governor's agenda to create jobs and drive more economic growth.
"Strengthening our transportation system drives economic growth for generations to come while creating thousands of jobs today," Governor Quinn said. "Reconstructing the Circle Interchange will ease congestion, move people and freight more efficiently, and clean up the environment by reducing emissions from idling vehicles."
The Circle Interchange Improvement project will improve traffic flow on the three expressways that meet in the heart of Chicago. According to estimates by transportation planners, it will reduce traffic delays by at least 50 percent; it will save drivers 5 million hours annually; and the improved traffic flow will lead to savings of 1.6 million gallons of fuel per year.
IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider is chair of the CMAP policy committee and presided today over a meeting at which CMAP agreed to IDOT's recommendation to amend the region's long range transportation plan, GO TO 2040, to accommodate the Circle Interchange project. Additionally, this project will put hundreds of men and women to work rebuilding and repairing our critical transportation network.
"Through a comprehensive and transparent process, we have identified a plan for the Circle Interchange that will keep our region and our economy moving," Transportation Secretary Schneider said. "We applaud CMAP's decision to support Governor Quinn's efforts to enhance safety and improve congestion at the Circle Interchange and include this project in the region's long-range plan, so we can continue our planning and design efforts without delay."
The Circle Interchange was constructed between 1958 and 1962, and has outlived its design life according to several performance indicators on safety, infrastructure condition and congestion. The interchange experiences an average of 940 crashes per year. In addition, each day, more than 400,000 vehicles pass through the Circle Interchange, which connects the Kennedy, Dan Ryan and Eisenhower expressways, and is a vital regional and local hub for commuters, businesses and freight movement. In 2010, 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.
Based on engineering concerns over safety, infrastructure condition and congestion, Governor Quinn last April directed IDOT to begin planning work for this estimated $420 million project. The planning work began in spring 2012 and is proceeding on an accelerated schedule. Extensive stakeholder outreach has been a focal point of a comprehensive planning process, which is expected to be completed in spring 2013.
The proposed scope of the work involve replacing aging ramps and pavement with two existing single-lane ramps (the northbound Dan Ryan (I-90/94) to the westbound Eisenhower (I-290); and the eastbound Eisenhower to northbound Kennedy (I-90/94)) being widened to two-lane ramps providing additional capacity. In addition, the design of the ramp merging points 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.
As part of the planning process, IDOT has been conducting an extensive public outreach and involvement campaign. The agency has scheduled a Public Hearing to provide an overview of the study process and solicit public input on April 3, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Marriot Chicago at Medical District/UIC, 625 South Ashland Ave. For more information about the project, go to: http://www.circleinterchange.org.