New engineers to oversee massive tollway projects

A new consulting engineer will be advising the Illinois tollway as it charges ahead with a multibillion-dollar agenda that will change commuting in the suburbs.

Directors Thursday approved an $84.5 million, 4½-year contract with WSP USA Inc., formerly Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc., for duties including inspections, preparing an annual report and reviewing projects.

"We think WSP will be a good member of the tollway team," Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said. "There's a lot of big projects we're looking at ... not the least of which is I-294."

In fall 2016, tollway leaders rejected an offer from its outgoing consulting engineer of 58 years, AECOM, with little explanation. Firm officials complained the agency acted improperly by dumping AECOM.

Those differences appear to have been resolved.

AECOM did not apply for the consulting job when it was re-advertised this winter. Thursday, directors hired AECOM to continue as consultant at a cost of $8.6 million for six months, to assist with the transition and an upcoming bond sale.

They also approved changes to a $78 million contract with AECOM to lead design work on the central Tri-State Tollway (I-294). The agency intends to widen and rebuild its most-used toll road between 95th Street near Oak Lawn and Balmoral Avenue in Rosemont.

"The relationship is different, but we look forward to working with them," Schillerstrom said. "The expansion of I-294 is very important to the tollway. It's complicated just from a design point of view, so the staff and board felt without a doubt they were the best firm to undertake that."

WSP engineers will be overseeing the Tri-State project along with construction of Route 390 to O'Hare and a new toll road on the airport's western edge connecting with I-90 and I-294.

WSP already has some contracts with the agency, including work on the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90). To avoid conflicts of interest and prevent AECOM or WSP from inspecting themselves, the consultants will review each other's work. A third engineering professional, HBTB Corp., will also be used.

Both contracts for consulting engineer and design work on the Tri-State have expanded since the tollway board voted in April to include extra lanes on I-294. The I-294 design services job increased from $33 million to $78 million, and the consulting engineering contract grew in cost from $43 million as first proposed in 2016 to $84.5 million and lasts another 1½ years.

The tollway is required by law to have a consulting engineer.

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Tollway nears deal with consulting engineer

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