The fix for one of the region's most notorious traffic tie-ups hit a milestone Tuesday as state and local leaders broke ground for a railway bridge in Bensenville.
The $67 million project at York and Irving Park roads will elevate the Canadian Pacific railway tracks. It's the second grade separation at the intersection; a bridge lifting Union Pacific Railroad trains was completed in 2012.
An outdated design with insufficient lanes for the 65,000 vehicles that pass through the intersections daily and a busy freight route make the location "a recipe for congestion and unsafe operations," Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Scheider said.
"By doing this, freight movements will operate better and it will create additional opportunities for Bensenville for added economic activity. There won't be all that traffic sitting and waiting light after light and it will free up movements around O'Hare," she said.
Lowering Irving Park Road and building the Canadian Pacific grade separation is expected to finish in fall 2014. New turn lanes and modernized traffic signals will be added to the intersection in 2014 and the entire project should wrap up in winter 2015.
Located near O'Hare International Airport, the intersection is a key artery for passenger cars and trucks in both Cook and DuPage counties.
But for years, a daily average of 25 freight trains has clogged traffic there. The delays have idled an estimated 6,400 vehicles a day, equating to 1,500 lost hours for motorists, officials said.
The work also ties in with related projects: relocating Irving Park Road to allow for improvements to O'Hare that involve expanding the airport to allow for an additional south runway; and the extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway east to the airport. The Elgin-O'Hare work includes a bypass around the west side of the airport connecting to the Jane Addams Tollway in Des Plaines and Tri-State Tollway in Franklin Park that will feature an interchange with Irving Park Road.
"This will make the area work better with the transportation infrastructure and create additional opportunities west of O'Hare," Schneider said.
The construction is funded through the state's Illinois Jobs Now capital program.