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updated: 4/23/2012 12:10 PM

Road will finally lead into O'Hare, but then what?

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  • What happens when the tollway builds an access ramp into O'Hare? It's still up in the air.

      What happens when the tollway builds an access ramp into O'Hare? It's still up in the air.
    File Photo By Mark Black | Staff Photographer

  • Elgn-O'Hare plan

    Graphic: Elgn-O'Hare plan (click image to open)


I will celebrate 2025 by driving east on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, exiting onto a frontage road, merging onto York Road and taking a ramp into -- the west side of O'Hare Airport! Ta-da!

Of course, what happens when I arrive is up for grabs. I may arrive at a spanking new western terminal. I may park and wait for a bus to take me to the main terminals. Or I may just idle the car as planes roar overhead because there's nowhere to go. Whatever.

The Illinois Department of Transportation and the tollway authority have released detailed plans to extend the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway east and build a bypass around the airport. The public comment period runs until May 14, and we'll get into some specifics of the plan shortly.

But what caught my attention and that of other people at a Wednesday IDOT open house was one map showing a hook-shaped ramp intended to take drivers from York Road into the western side of the airport.

Roselle businesswoman Cathy Ciucci wasn't hooked on the hook.

"If it's not going to get me into O'Hare, why bother?" she said.

Her question stems from the fact Chicago hasn't tipped its hand on what happens when the access ramp is built. The city is at oddswith American and United airlines over funding airport expansion, and it appears the two carriers have conducted an effective beat down of the western terminal.

Not quite, said Chicago Department of Aviation special projects coordinator Gregg Cunningham.

"It is our intention that there will be a western terminal, but ... this is a demand-driven project with no definitive timeline," he said via email. "There is the potential for interim steps that would precede the construction of a terminal, such as a parking lot on the west side of the airport with transportation service to the existing terminals. Cunningham added, "We have always involved our partner stakeholders -- this includes our neighboring communities -- and maintained the ability to be flexible, especially with how and when the land will be developed on the west side of the airport."

So much for the airport part. Let's talk road construction.

The project will cost $3.4 billion, and that's for a scaled-back version with reduced interchanges, fewer lanes and the minimalist entrance to O'Hare. About $3.1 billion will be paid for by tolls on the bypass and on the new and existing Elgin-O'Hare Expressway. The remaining $300 million is expected to come from local sources -- although who will pay for it is under negotiation. (Don't get me started on that saga.)

The expressway extension will push the Elgin-O'Hare east from its terminus in Itasca to O'Hare and connect with the bypass. The bypass will loop around the airport's west side connecting with the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) to the south in Franklin Park and merging with the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) to the north in Des Plaines.

New interchanges on the extension and bypass will change the shape of the landscape in west Cook and north DuPage counties.

Here are some details:

• New interchanges on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway will include Park Boulevard and Arlington Heights Road in Itasca; Wood Dale Road in Wood Dale; and Route 83 in Bensenville.

• New interchanges on the bypass will include Higgins Road (Route 72) in Elk Grove Village; Irving Park Road in Bensenville; and an interconnected system at the nexus of Taft Avenue, County Farm Road and Green Street/Franklin Avenue in Franklin Park.

• Planners intend to create a full interchange at I-90 and Elmhurst Road and to improve the problematic I-294 connection with eastbound North Avenue in Elmhurst as part of the work.

• Toll rates on the expressway and extension will be about 20 cents a mile.

• Completing the project could require up to 596 acres, including seven homes and 52 businesses, although those numbers could decrease.

So what do you think? Drop me a line at To comment on the plan and see details, go to

One more thing

Western terminal or no, local leaders see the construction as a gamechanger for the prosperity of the Northwest suburbs and for how people get around.

"The road in and of itself promises a lot of economic development opportunities," DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said.

As for the two-way ramp into O'Hare that some engineers have dubbed the "hook," "I think of it as hooking a big tuna," Cronin said.

"To some people, it may seem inadequate. Some may view it as a breakthrough. It's a remarkable accomplishment given what we've been through over the years. I will continue to pressure for a western terminal," he said.

Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said there's still work to be done with the tollway on local interchanges and infrastructure, but "overall, we're very optimistic."

Hearing outtakes

Dan Corbett and a colleague weren't just in attendance as observers. They were eyeballing an aerial map of the project that shows their Itasca accounting firm, Corbett, Duncan & Hubly, in the path of the construction.

"We need to find out if they need to acquire our business," Corbett said, adding he likes the highway access the project will provide.

Bob Lindstrom of Tri Star Engineering in Elk Grove Village took a long and optimistic view of the project.

"It would be great to have access to the Blue Line," he said, referring to the CTA line that terminates at O'Hare.

Your voice

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Poems of the Road contest sponsored by Esurance with a $2,000 prize. I also asked you to send your odes to In Transit. Among the suburban Shakespeares is Max King of Lake Zurich. He writes:

"As all the speeding cars rush past,

I wonder where their tanks are gassed.

So many turn without a signal --

Who's there to give the cops a jingle?

And as the lady combs her hair,

The turn lane's shut -- no room to spare.

So in this age of careless speed,

A doubly watchful eye we need."

For more on the Esurance contest, turn to


Chicago Area Clean Cities is sponsoring The Midwest Green Car Expo from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 5, at the Centre of Elgin, 100 Symphony Way, in conjunction with Elgin's Green Expo 2012. The event includes alternative fuel vehicles and displays plus tree-huggers and gear heads together. For information, check out

Gridlock alert

Good thing Fox Valley and DuPage drivers are a patient lot. The latest trial is widening and resurfacing on stretches of Route 64 between Route 59 in West Chicago and Seventh Avenue in St. Charles. Expect lane closures and more bonding time with your car. For info, check out

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