Three new I-290, Elgin-O'Hare ramps opening by Monday's morning commute
Transportation officials on Friday celebrated what's expected to be the first of many steps to fully connect the Western suburbs to O'Hare International Airport.
Government officials, transportation employees and construction workers gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony atop the new flyover ramp in Itasca that connects westbound I-290 to Illinois Route 390, formerly known as the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway.
Cars were parked along the yet-to-be striped ramp and guests strolled about on the warm, breezy morning, watching the I-290 traffic below and admiring Chicago's skyline in the distance.
"This is a historic day for the Western suburbs of Chicago," said Illinois Tollway Board Chairman Bob Schillerstrom. "After decades of discussing, planning, studying and working together in collaboration, we can now see some tangible progress in our efforts to address transportation needs in this region."
The three new ramps that are scheduled to open by Monday's morning commute include:
• The flyover ramp connecting westbound I-290 (which heads north toward Schaumburg) to westbound Route 390;
• A ramp connecting westbound I-290 to eastbound Route 390 (which turns into Thorndale Avenue);
• A ramp connecting eastbound I-290 (which heads south toward I-355) to westbound Route 390.
The ramps will eliminate the signalized intersection at Thorndale Avenue, creating free-flow traffic movements from the west. Schillerstrom said they are a "tremendous start" to relieve congestion, improve mobility and create full western access to O'Hare.
The ramps are part of the $3.4 billion Elgin-O'Hare Western Access Project, which includes 17 miles of new roads and 15 new or improved interchanges that eventually will extend east along Thorndale Avenue to O'Hare and circle around the western border of the airport, linking I-90 to I-294.
Tollway Executive Greg Bedalov said the project will enable the Chicago region to "retain its competitive edge over other major cities and unlock the economic potential of the region in the years ahead."
"It promises to attract new economic developments to the area west of O'Hare and provide quick and efficient transport of goods and services," he said.
The Illinois Tollway is using tolls and user fees to cover $3.1 billion of the cost of the Western Access Project. DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said the county is responsible for closing the $300 million gap and $112 million already has been raised. A goal has been set to collect $150 million by the end of 2015.
"Something of this magnitude doesn't happen without partners. We're all partners in this: the state, the federal level of government, local governments," Cronin said. "I think this is what we do best, coming together, both sides of the aisle, all different levels of government, to do something very meaningful and significant."
When the I-290 Interchange Project -- which accounts for about $440 million of the Western Access Project -- is complete by the end of 2017, there will be 17 new ramps and 15 new bridges in the area between Meacham/Medinah Road and Prospect Avenue. It is estimated that travel times in the area will be reduced by 35 percent.
Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said that's beneficial to the 3,600 businesses and 70,000 employees in his town, as transportation is one of their top concerns and vital to their success.
"Every minute their trucks, their employees sit idling in traffic or stoplights, (it) costs them money. They've got to be moving in and out. That makes them more productive, more successful, and that's what we need," he said.
Johnson said the project has been one of the best examples of collaboration he has seen during his time as mayor. He also praised the workers for their dedication to the project, which includes working on weekends and holidays, in the snow and the rain.
"That's why these jobs come in on time, on budget, because of the work that these people are doing," he said.