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posted: 12/13/2012 5:56 PM

Tollway faces hurdles for expressway extension, interchange

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  • Daily Herald file photoNumerous homes in Posen including this one on South California Avenue are being bought up by the Illinois tollway, despite residents' protests.

    Daily Herald file photoNumerous homes in Posen including this one on South California Avenue are being bought up by the Illinois tollway, despite residents' protests.


More than $162 million of the Illinois tollway's just-approved 2013 budget is earmarked for work on the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway extension and an interchange at I-57 and the Tri-State (I-294), but there are still hurdles to overcome in both projects.

South suburban residents whose homes lie in the path of the interchange pleaded with directors for more time at Thursday's Illinois State Toll Highway Authority meeting.

And, DuPage communities don't yet have their hands on $300 million -- the local share of the $3.4 billion expressway expansion.

When Latasha Terry-Davis built her home in Posen, she had no idea the tollway intended to buy up land there to build the interchange connecting I-57 and I-294.

The agency now is in the midst of acquiring 300 properties and the fact home values have plummeted in the last five years makes the process even harder, residents said.

"When you build a home, you expect to be there the rest of your life," Terry-Davis said, adding she'll have to uproot her sons from their current schools.

Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said south suburban leaders supported the interchange project because it's projected to spur economic development in the area. But she acknowledged the difficulties facing individual homeowners and promised the agency would work with them.

Meanwhile, DuPage leaders are optimistic that a joint application by towns for federal air-congestion relief grants could solve the $300 million shortfall. Officials also think that in-kind contributions, such as maintenance of connected roads, could bridge the gap.

"I'm hopeful and confident that we will secure the $300 million in funds to contribute to this essential project," DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin said. "We have an influential coalition of business, labor and government leaders across our area dedicated to the completion of this project that has both regional and national significance."

The Elgin-O'Hare project includes extending the expressway east along Thorndale Avenue to the airport and building a bypass around the western boundary of O'Hare. The bypass would link to I-294 to the south in Franklin Park, to the expressway in the center and to I-90 in the north in Des Plaines.

The expressway and the interchange will be funded by a toll increase that went into effect Jan. 1. The Elgin-O'Hare also will get revenues by converting the existing section of the expressway into a tollway. Agency leaders said the conversion is still being worked out with state and federal governments.

The budget approved Thursday allows for $1.5 billion in spending for operations, debt service and capital projects. The lion's share -- $922 million -- goes toward new construction including the Elgin-O'Hare, I-57 interchange and work to widen the Jane Addams Tollway.

Directors also authorized borrowing up to $1 billion through a bond sale as part of a 15-year, $12 billion road building program.

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