Summer blockbuster — here’s your 2024 construction season preview

  Illinois Tollway Executive Director Cassaundra Rouse speaks during a press conference for Work Zone Awareness Tuesday in Westchester. Brian Hill/
  Construction continues on northbound I-294 as it passes over I-290 Tuesday in Berkeley. The work is part of a 22-mile project that’s scheduled to wrap up in 2027. Brian Hill/

In one corner: The Illinois tollway is rebuilding I-294, the busiest road in the system, and constructing an interstate from scratch.

In the other corner: The Illinois Department of Transportation is juggling Kennedy Expressway and I-80 revamps, two gnarly projects with the ability to make hardened drivers weep.

Actually, it’s not a contest. Because no matter where you go, everyone in the region will likely be putting coins in the swear jar while navigating construction season 2024.

“We’re at the absolute peak” of the $15 billion Move Illinois program, tollway Chief Engineer Manar Nashif said Thursday. In 2024, that means continuing rebuilding and widening the Central Tri-State Tollway (I-294).

“We have massive mainline reconstruction happening between I-55 and Cermak Road,” Nashif said. “We’re also in the throes of construction for the I-290/I-88 interchange, so there’s huge work happening there.”

For drivers fatigued by jackhammers, Nashif noted “we’re mostly complete on the (Tri-State) southern section from 95th Street to I-55,” which includes five lanes in both directions. The entire project reaches from Rosemont to Oak Lawn.

Meanwhile, IDOT crews are digging into the Kennedy Expressway’s reversible lanes.

The three-year, $150 million project entails rehabbing 36 Kennedy bridges between the Edens Expressway and Ohio Street.

IDOT completed the inbound Kennedy lanes in 2023.

In 2024, workers will replace the reversible lane access control system making switch-overs faster. With the reversibles, drivers should see more predictable traffic patterns because daytime lane closures will remain essentially the same, without the shifts and major ramp closures required last year.

And that’s not all.

“The year 2024 is going to be the turning point” for I-80 in Will County, state Transportation Secretary Omer Osman has said.

The agency kicked off a $1.3 billion rebuild of more than 30 bridges and multiple interchanges on the interstate, which takes a beating from about 20,000 trucks daily. The project extends from Ridge Road in Minooka to Route 30 near Joliet.

IDOT Region 1 Engineer Jose Rios asked for drivers’ patience “as we rebuild roads and bridges across the district. When you pass through these work zones, please remember the people behind the cones and barricades. Please slow down, stay alert and give them room to work,” he said Friday.

The fourth seismic project is Interstate 490. However, I-490 will cause the least gridlock this summer because it’s a completely new road, wrapping around the west side of O’Hare International Airport.

“This truly is a project like no other,” Nashif said, adding some of the most complicated components come in 2024, 2025 and 2026.

Complexities include railroad relocation work south of O’Hare. “That’s not something we do every day,” he noted.

In addition, the tollway is replacing runway lights at O’Hare and moving jet fuel pipelines necessitated by the toll road’s unique location.

I-490 will connect with I-294 in Franklin Park, Route 390 in the middle and I-90 near Des Plaines; work this year will focus on the three interchanges.

One more thing

Kane County will complete the final segment of Longmeadow Parkway between Sandbloom/Williams Road and the Bolz Road Connector this fall

With limited construction cash, Longmeadow originally was designated as a toll road, but state and federal grants rescued drivers from that fate.

“From a staff perspective, it will be an amazing feeling to complete our second once-in-a-lifetime project, with the Stearns Road Bridge Corridor being the first,” Assistant Director of Transportation Steve Coffinbargar said.

You should know

Here are some other highway and tollway projects:

• Repairing bridges on I-88 near Northern Illinois University; expect some delays and closures until later this year.

• Replacing I-55 bridges over Route 53 and Joliet Road.

• Constructing a diverging diamond interchange at I-55 and Route 59 near Plainfield.

• Patching work on I-90 near Rockford.

• Ramp improvements at I-355 and Roosevelt in Lombard.

• Bridge repairs on the far north Tri-State at Route 41.

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