In Transit: Your 2021 road work guide

As the Illinois tollway intensifies construction of the seismic I-490 on O'Hare International Airport's western flank in 2021, IDOT is doubling down on the behemoth that is the Jane Byrne Interchange redo.

The new toll road that will link to the Tri-State (I-294) and Jane Addams (I-90) tollways is “a big deal,” U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said at an event Thursday.

“It will finally allow people to connect from I-90 all the way down to the southern suburbs. That's going to help in a lot of ways, save congestion, save fuel, save money,” the Schaumburg Democrat explained.

With the Byrne Interchange, IDOT is promising just two more years until the tangle of the Eisenhower (I-290) plus Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways (I-90/94) near Chicago's Loop is unraveled.

The epic project “will be substantially completed by the end of 2022,” spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said.

There's a lot to unpack in this year's construction season preview, so let's jump in.

For the Illinois tollway, the $1.53 billion construction season “begins with some of the biggest and most challenging projects lying ahead,” spokesman Dan Rozek said.

One priority that will cause driver teeth gnashing and delays is the gnarly rebuild and widening of the Central Tri-State. This spring and summer, workers are building new BNSF Railway and Mile Long bridges, plus reconfiguring the spaghetti ramps at the I-290/I-88 and Tri-State interchange.

Construction of I-490 and Route 390 will be less intrusive since much of that project is new pavement that doesn't encroach on traffic.

Route 390, once known as the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, is being extended along Thorndale Avenue east to O'Hare, where it will connect with I-490 and the airport.

This spring and summer, crews will continue laying concrete for the I-490 and Route 390 interchange. The project entails 16 ramps and 15 bridges “that will deliver full mobility into and out of the west side of the airport,” plus York and Irving Park roads, Rozek said.

I-90, I-94 upgrades

Over at Camp IDOT, alpha projects include the interminable Jane Byrne Interchange, plus some essential Kennedy Expressway (I-90/94) upgrades.

On the Jane Byrne, workers will concentrate on a new inbound collector-distributor road for I-90/I-94.

Another intricate endeavor is widening and repaving a congested stretch of the Kennedy between Harlem Avenue and O'Hare. This year, expect delays as a new collector-distributor road at Cumberland Avenue is built along the outbound expressway.

Just east of Cumberland, more fun awaits drivers with the replacement of the Montrose Avenue bridge that spans the highway.

“Work is currently focused on installing new steel beams and building the bridge deck on the north structure,” Castaneda said.

And to spice things up, motorists should brace for outbound Kennedy Expressway resurfacing between the Edens Expressway and Harlem.

Additional projects

Here's a look at other major highway and toll road improvements in the region.

• Ramp construction at the Tri-State and I-57 interchange

• A new Windsor Road bridge at I-88 and I-294 in Oak Brook

• Rebuilding the Stearns School Bridge over the Tri-State in Gurnee

• Improvements to the I-55 and Weber Road interchange near Romeoville

• Widening I-80 from I-355 to Route 30 near New Lennox

• Bridge replacements along I-80 in between Hickory Creek and Rowell Road in Joliet

Of note, in northern Kane County, “Longmeadow Parkway remains our top priority,” Assistant Transportation Director Steve Coffinbarger said. The unique project, spearheaded by the county, will be partially paid for with one toll at the Fox River.

One word of caution — there are typically 6,400 work zone crashes in Illinois each year resulting in 34 deaths and 1,700 injuries. Nine out of every 10 deaths involves drivers, passengers, pedestrians or cyclists.

“We want to remind the public that driving in and around work zones to slow down, pay attention and avoid all distractions,” Castaneda said.

Local hot spots

  Mike Valentino, tollway engineering consultant, holds a large map showing construction plans for the ramp connecting I-90 to I-490. Brian Hill/
  Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, center left, talks with local mayors before a news conference updating I-490, the ring road around O'Hare International Airport at the Illinois tollway's new Bensenville maintenance site Thursday. Brian Hill/
  Looking east, a plane takes off from O'Hare International Airport near a new ramp connecting I-490 to Route 390. Brian Hill/
  Construction continues on a ramp linking I-90 to I-490. Giant mounds of gravel sit where the Des Plaines oasis used to be. Brian Hill/
  Construction continues on a new ramp connecting I-90 to I-490. Giant mounds of gravel sit on the site of the former Des Plaines oasis. Brian Hill/
  Construction continues on a new ramp connecting I-90 to I-490. Giant mounds of gravel sit on the site of the former Des Plaines oasis. Brian Hill/
  Looking west from a new ramp from I-490 to Route 390 the Illinois tollway is building. Brian Hill/
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