O'Hare western access is road to opportunity
By John Carpenter
There have been a number of stories written over the past few years regarding the progress of the Western Access O'Hare project. Local media has recently questioned if the new I-390 Tollway will ever lead somewhere. It appears people have short memories. The new I-390 Tollway is part of the Western Access effort that will eventually connect to O'Hare creating a western access point to the airport -- a project vital to our region, and especially DuPage County.
Key components of the O'Hare Modernization Project (OMP), agreed to and approved 15 years ago, were predicated upon the successful completion of the Elgin-O'Hare Tollway, I-390. The project began with an addition of nearly 50 expressway lane miles. By converting Thorndale Avenue into a limited-access, four-lane highway, we've created an extension to the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway, opening the opportunity to build a bypass that connects I-90 and I-294.
This is an incredibly important project, not only for DuPage County, but for residents and businesses across the Chicagoland region as whole. The benefits from the Western Access O'Hare project are compelling. As a component of the larger OMP, this effort will completely transform the economy of the region.
As a quick reminder, according to the Elgin-O'Hare Western Bypass Advisory Council, the economic benefits of this project include:
• Creation of 65,000 jobs by 2040
• Local tax revenues expected to increase by $29M annually (based on 2010 projection)
• 13,450 jobs will be created annually in the region during construction
• Travel delays will be reduced, saving an estimated $145 million annually by 2040
Today, the manufacturing, transportation and warehousing industries have a workforce of 75,000 in DuPage County, nearly 15 percent of our entire labor force. The Western Access O'Hare project is vital to the future of our region if we are to sustain this level of economic activity. Despite the uncertainty that both public-and private-sector organizations face in today's environment, Choose DuPage continues to work toward expanding the regional economy through actions that stimulate business investment in our region and generate desirable job opportunities for residents.
In a market where industrial vacancy rates have been on a nearly continuous five-year decline, our county is finding new ways to remain competitive. Industrial businesses are making their move to DuPage, and Western Access to O'Hare allows for further growth; this is truly a road to opportunity, crucial to the future of our economy.
Since 2014, Choose DuPage has worked with the Illinois Tollway and regional public- and private-sector leaders to establish the Western Access O'Hare corridor as a premier global business location. This project will relieve congestion in the western suburbs and generate a raft of jobs and economic growth -- with or without a new O'Hare western terminal. DuPage deserves this and the region will benefit from it. So, I challenge the notion I-390 is a road to nowhere> Meaningful western access is building a road to opportunity that is crucial to the future of our economy.
John Carpenter is president and CEO of Choose DuPage, an organization dedicated to establishing DuPage County as a premier global business location.