Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth and many other elected and appointed officials were in Hoffman Estates Friday morning for the announcement of a $68 million funding plan for a long-awaited full interchange at Barrington Road and the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway.
"Welcome to the center of the universe -- my district!" joked Democratic State Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates to the Chicago-area press corps covering the announcement at Alexian Brothers Women & Children's Hospital.
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In stressing the importance of the project -- both for emergency access to the medical center as well as to jobs in the area -- Quinn thanked Duckworth for lending her voice to the effort, as well as Crespo for keeping the issue alive in Springfield for many years.
Crespo, in turn, thanked Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod for keeping the idea alive everywhere.
"It's going to happen!" McLeod pronounced, as if in disbelief. "There is going to be a full interchange at Barrington Road and I-90!"
The project is piggybacking on top of the current widening of the tollway and the necessary reconstruction of the Barrington Road bridge over it. Everything is expected to be completed by late 2016.
The division of funding is $40.8 million from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority,$22.2 million from the Illinois Department of Transportation, and $5 million from Hoffman Estates.
Alexian Brothers Health System, which operates St. Alexius Medical Center and the Women & Children's Hospital near the site of the interchange, is contributing $1 million toward the village's share.
Duckworth said the village funding was a true indicator that the project is both community-based and community-backed.
"This project is good for our community," she said. "It will be good for commuters. It will be good for emergency management."
Kristi Lafleur, executive director of the Illinois Tollway, said the project will fill in an 8-mile gap of western access to the Jane Addams. She explained that when the system was built 50 years ago, eastern access to and from Chicago was all officials were concerned with and all that could be financially justified, as most traffic was to and from the city.
But for at least the past 20 years, partial interchanges like the one at Barrington Road have been sources of confusion and frustration for motorists as with growth, more motorists used the road to commute from suburb to suburb.
Quinn described the interchange as transformational -- both for the economic development of the area as well as to save lives through quicker access to the hospital.
Crespo said the economic development aspect has been deemed important ever since he was a Hoffman Estates trustee 10 years ago. But recent efforts to secure funding have emphasized hospital access about three times as much as job growth.
McLeod praised Quinn for his support in seeing the realization of a dream. The mayor said Quinn stood out from all the other governors whose terms have coincided with his for actively approaching communities to find out what they need.
"The governor said we have to get this done," McLeod said. "We got it done."
Quinn said he used to work in Cary and has been aware of the desire for a full interchange at Barrington Road since the late 1970s.
As a boon to mass transit, the project includes a Pace bus park-and-ride facility contained within the footprint of the interchange. Buses to and from it would be able to use a dedicated bus lane along the shoulder of the road in the future.