The long-awaited goal of separating trains from car traffic at a railroad crossing near the border of Kane and DuPage counties soon will be realized.
State and local officials on Wednesday announced plans to construct an overpass at Route 38 and Kautz Road in West Chicago. Once the nearly $26 million project is completed in 2014, vehicles on Route 38 will be able to pass over the Union Pacific tracks.
Gov. Pat Quinn said the project, which is funded through the state's capital program, will create nearly 340 construction jobs, reduce traffic delays, and improve safety for travelers in DuPage and Kane counties.
"We want to get people to where they want to go as fast as possible and as safely as possible," Quinn said from Kautz Farm, which is near the crossing. "That's why we invest so much in bridges."
The project is scheduled to start in November and be finished by fall 2014. Route 38 will remain open during construction but will be narrowed to one lane in each direction, officials said.
DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said officials have been talking about constructing a bridge over the train tracks for many years.
"The benefits of this project will be immediate," Cronin said, "and it will be felt by thousands of motorists who will longer have to stop for passing trains."
According to state officials, more than 21,000 vehicles travel daily on that stretch of Route 38. Roughly 3,800 of those vehicles get held up by the 75 freight trains and 54 commuter that pass through the crossing.
"By separating the grade, those cars will no longer be idling, creating pollution," Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. "We will be creating a better flow of traffic in the region."
Reducing traffic delays with the overpass is expected to benefit the nearby DuPage Business Center, which has the potential of providing up to 5.5 million square feet of new development.
"A big part of making the business park an active place is access and transportation," Cronin said. "This project goes a long way to making that property more marketable, more desirable."
Meanwhile, Kane County Board Chairwoman Karen McConnaughay said the project is just as important to Kane as it is to DuPage.
"The construction jobs that come with this project are so, so vitally important," she said. "These are very, very important investments in our local economy and in our state of Illinois."
Officials have said the area is particularly hazardous because of the way the train tracks and road intersect at a 45-degree angle.
The proposed improvement will put a T-intersection with signals on the new bridge. The project also will widen and realign Route 38 from east of Kirk to east of Technology Boulevard, providing two lanes in each direction.