As state and DuPage County transportation officials celebrated completion of the reconstructed intersection at Irving Park and York roads in Bensenville Friday, a freight train stalled on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks.
It was an unplanned photo op.
Trains on a major cargo route into O'Hare International Airport used to frequently block the intersection at street-level crossings, testing the patience of drivers and earning the corridor an infamous reputation for congestion.
"This was one of the highest-delay intersections in all of the county," said John Loper, DuPage's chief transportation planner.
But on Friday morning, the train idled on a railroad bridge without disrupting truck and commuter traffic below on the road. The sight was a shining example of why the intersection -- revamped as part of a $67 million project -- is now a poster child for a regional "transportation system that works together," officials said.
"In the old days, that train would be on the street, and we'd be backed up here forever," Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said. "This separates that traffic. This intersection runs really well right now."
The project widened the busy intersection to two lanes in each direction, updated traffic signals and installed lighting.
More than 60,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day, according to IDOT. A daily average of 25 trains can now run interrupted above Irving Park and York roads, IDOT officials said.
"This is not only an intersection that works well, it's an intersection that looks good," Blankenhorn said. "And I think that its important for our community to be proud of what we're doing here, and I think this is a model that we want to take to other places, not just here in DuPage County, but across the region."
Construction on the railroad overpass began in early 2013 to alleviate bottlenecks and improve freight access to O'Hare. Crews also lowered Irving Park Road.
An earlier project to build a bridge lifting the Union Pacific railroad tracks just east wrapped up in 2012.
"This is about building jobs. This is about growing economies. This is about strengthening communities," Blankenhorn told a gathering that included village and business leaders. "This is the kind of poster child of a project that we want to work together on to make sure we can put across this state."
State and federal dollars funded the project. Early project design for an initial engineering study cost $1.57 million. DuPage County covered a third of that price tag.
DuPage County Board member Sam Tornatore, who represents a district that includes Bensenville, was well-acquainted with the traffic headaches at the intersection.
"I can't tell you the number of times, as all of you, that I've been bottlenecked here in the morning on the way to O'Hare airport," he said. "That's going to be resolved now because of the work of all the people who've been partners in this."
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke contributed to this report.